I beg to move,
That this House approves the policy on National Service set out in Command Paper No. 9608.
The need for National Service and the length of that service must depend upon the commitments of the Armed Forces, both actual and foreseeable. I think it is agreed that the purposes of this country are defensive. Our interest is peace and stability. We seek to prevent global war, to resist infiltration and subversion, to win a limited war should another like Korea be forced upon us, and to survive global war should that catastrophe take place. The pattern of our defence effort must be planned so that we may have the best possible chance of accomplishing these purposes.
Therefore, we are building up a medium bomber force armed with the necessary weapons to enable us to play a part in providing the nuclear deterrent, the supreme deterrent, to war. An adequate control and reporting system is a consequential necessity to safeguard that force against surprise attack. We have to help to man the N.A.T.O. screen of armed forces in Europe. These forces have a definite purpose, even in a thermonuclear age. They contribute to the deterrent, and if they did not exist the aggressor might from time to time be tempted to pinch off, by surprise attack, a country or territory and then to face us with that as an accomplished fact and gamble on the chance that, so placed, we should shrink from a nuclear conflict. These forces therefore constitute a subsidiary deterrent. To be that, in reality, they must be known to be capable of giving a good account of themselves at short notice.
We also require substantial forces in the Mediterranean and the Middle East to enable us to carry out our Treaty obligations and international responsibilities and those, at the present time particularly, are well enough known. We require forces to prevent infiltration and subversion, for example, in Malaya and Kenya. We need forces distributed throughout the world to protect British interests. A case in point is the necessary naval force to give protection to our ships sailing in the China Seas. We need certain active reserves so that we can take up our share of the burden of a limited war, if another should be launched against us, and so that we can deal with emergencies.
With regard to the dreadful contingency of global nuclear war, we have to make preparations to try to mitigate the consequences for this country and to give as much of the country as possible the best prospect of survival. That involves air defence, including the development of guided missiles, and the maintenance of certain reserve forces in these islands.
That, broadly speaking, is the picture which confronts me, as Minister of Defence, and the Government. I believe that a large majority will accept it as a realistic description of the present situation. At the same time, I readily acknowledge that when we are considering the size of the forces required for these purposes any Government must bear in mind the national economy and the demands being made upon the nation's pool of manpower by the Armed Forces.
Taking all these factors into account, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the size of the Armed Forces should be reduced to 700,000 by 31st March, 1958. Of these, about 680,000 will be men. That figure is a reduction of about 100,000 upon the present figure and of 170,000 in the period between March, 1953, and 31st March, 1958. That is a reduction of 20 per cent. over five years, and an important release of manpower for civilian purposes.
It is a reduction of the demand made by the Armed Forces upon the manpower pool of the country. However people may try to describe it, that is the fact. The number of people in the Armed Forces will have been diminished in the period by 170,000. When other countries are lauded for their reductions, and for declarations of intention, the fulfilment of which cannot be verified, from totals which can never be ascertained, I hope that our action will not pass unnoticed and uncommended.
We propose to come down to 700,000 by 31st March, 1958. I do not believe that anyone in my position could come to this Box and honestly defend a lower figure in present circumstances. This large and significant reduction has one inevitable consequence; the more you reduce, the greater the need for what is left to be as efficient as possible. Remembering that fact, let us examine and consider the way in which the reduction should be effected.
First of all, a word about the Regular element. I think it would be agreed by most hon. Members in the House that we want the Regular element to be as large as possible. The Service Ministers and I would willingly do without conscription tomorrow if we could get the necessary number of Regulars. The idea that the miltary like conscription is absolute nonsense. At present, there are about 66,000 Regular officers and 270,000 Regular men serving on engagements for more than four years. Her Majesty's Government want to get that last figure as high as possible. We are attacked because it is not higher already, but it has to be remembered that to attract men to the Armed Forces at a time of full employment we must be able to offer rewards and conditions which compare fairly with those in civil life, and which take account of the uncertainties and discomforts of Service life. Our proposals will be put forward by the time of the next Estimates.
In the meantime, I am able to announce one improvement. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds) asked me a Question about this the other day. The Government have decided to inaugurate, as from 1st September, 1955, a system of education allowances for officers and other ranks. Putting it shortly, officers and other ranks serving overseas and those serving at home who are subject to frequent postings will receive an allowance of £75 a year for each child between the ages of 11 and 18 who is at a boarding school, and of £25 for each child between the ages of 11 and 18 lodged with relatives or guardians in order to ensure continuity in day school education. When the officer or other rank is serving overseas, the allowances will not be subject to tax. I believe that these new arrangements will be a real help to all concerned.
I acknowledge the interest which has been shown in this matter on both sides of the House. One of the great anxieties in the minds of many parents has been the fact that between the ages of 11 and 18 the child may have had to go to six or seven different schools.
I think that this will be a substantial improvement.
Important as the Regular element is, we cannot, within the period under review—that is to say, within the next two years or so—do without the National Service men or, indeed, without very substantial numbers of them, and, at the same time, meet our military commitments. I want to make clear again one point about which there still seems to be misunderstanding. When National Service was instituted, it was said that the primary purpose was to provide trained reserves to be available in an emergency. The secondary purpose was to supplement the Regular element of the active forces. That situation has now changed. Indeed, it has been changed for some time. At present, except to a very limited extent, the primary purpose of National Service is not to provide trained reserves. It is to fill up the numbers currently required in forces which must be capable of giving a good account of themselves at short notice.
May I make that point clear and illustrate it? In the Army, the National Service element is about 200,000. Of those, 6,000 are officers, 27,000 are N.C.O.s, and out of the total of other ranks some 88,000 are tradesmen. Of all the tradesmen in the Army, about half are National Service men, and in some highly skilled trades the percentage is higher. Of line mechanics in the Royal Signals, 85 per cent. are National Service men. Of radio mechanics in the Royal Signals, 66 per cent. are National Service men. In the Royal Air Force, of the 69,000 National Service men, 45,000 are in advanced or skilled trades. One-quarter of all the trained ground tradesmen are National Service men, and in the important radio engineering group, for example, the proportion of the advanced tradesmen, the most highly skilled group of all, is one-quarter. These figures show the extent to which the Armed Forces at present depend upon the National Service men for their efficiency. That is the fact.
The information which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given about the National Service men is very valuable indeed. Would he be kind enough to give us the same information for the other half of the Army, the Regulars, giving us the breakdown of N.C.O.s, tradesmen, and so on?
I cannot do that without notice, but I will see that the hon. Gentleman gets that information if it is within my power to give it.
We now come to the question of training—the period of training taken before these men can become really useful. There are various descriptions of training differing between the Services—basic and continuation recruit, basic and continuation. The test which I have taken is the length of time before a man can be posted to a unit. In the Army, in the Royal Signals, this is on an average about six months. In the Ordnance Corps it is about nine months, and in the R.E.M.E. in certain trades it is about twelve months. For officers it is over six months, and considerably over for those in specialised arms.
In the Royal Air Force the period for mechanics is about six months, for fitters about nine months and for certain advanced tradesmen about twelve months. These periods do not include the time during which the men have to be absorbed into units—in other words, the time when they are learning to serve as members of a team. That must take time, because until it has taken place they cannot be said to be operationally useful or fit, and the safety of their comrades is bound up in all this. A high standard of unit efficiency must, after all, be the aim. Therefore, I submit that the obvious conclusion is that it would be a serious waste of manpower to train these men for these long periods and yet to be able to make little use of them when they had been trained.
That is not the end of this aspect of the matter. Those periods are not the only ones which have to be taken into account. There are the inevitable periods for leave, posting, time in transit, and those all absorb further time. On an average, for a man in the Army this amounts to about seven weeks out of his two years. For men posted further afield than Europe it may be twelve weeks. For a man in the Royal Air Force the average is five-and-a-half weeks. For men posted elsewhere than Europe it amounts to as much as nine or ten weeks. Strenuous efforts have been made to cut down these training periods and yet to maintain the standard, and steps have been taken to reduce the time in transit and some progress has been made.
When thinking about this matter of the length of time spent in training, the other day I looked up what the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) said when, as Minister of Labour, he moved the Second Reading of the National Service Bill, in 1947. This is what he said:
Primarily, the reason for the 18 months' full-time service is determined by two factors. First, thre must be an adequate period of initial training. That is not to say that the full 18 months will be taken up by training. Many of the forces, or sections of the forces, may be able to complete sufficient training by the end of 12 months and the young men may then do a bit of soldiering.
No, twelve months. I am quoting from the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark, reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 31st March, 1947. He went on to say:
Men may finish training, and then go to do garrison duty or some other work to take the place of some of the men coming out at the end of their normal time of service. Whilst the period of 18 months may not be required for complete training, it is required for service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 1677.]
The reason that I read that quotation was to show that it was thought that the greater part of eighteen months would be spent on training, and even in those
comparatively quiet days there would not be very much time left for active service.
Some of us remember that the extra period of six months was introduced during the Korean war as an emergency, with a pledge that it would be removed after the emergency. Is the Minister now telling us that as long as we have National Service there must be at least a two-year period?
No. I am not dealing with that position at all. I am dealing with the present, and I am dealing with the most efficient use of manpower at the present time. I am pointing out the length of the period of service of two years which is taken up in training, in the absorption of men into units and the time used by leave and postings. I am pointing out that in the present circumstances the best way to tackle this matter of ensuring the most economical use of manpower is to reduce the total number of people in the Services and not to reduce the period.
I asked whether I should be right to conclude from the Minister's statement that, in view of the period which it takes to train a man for the use which we want to make of him, it would be illusory to believe that National Service could ever be reduced below two years without, in the Minister's view, a gross waste of trained manpower. Is that his view?
No. I have already stated that the obvious purpose of us all must be to abolish National Service altogether, and that depends upon the international situation. What I am saying is that under present circumstances we have taken the most economical course in reducing quantity but striving to maintain quality.
One of the points which the right hon. and learned Gentleman made ought to be clarified for the benefit of hon. Members. Do I understand his view to be that a soldier cannot undertake active soldiering until he has been trained for twelve months? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said and presumably he knows more about it than do his hon. Friends. Is that his view—that it requires twelve months before a man can undertake active soldiering? If so, why is it that after six months, or even less, men are sent to Malaya, Kenya and Cyprus to undertake active soldiering?
What I said applies to the particular categories which I mentioned. I have been careful to indicate category by category the length of the period of training. The right hon. Gentleman also knows that although some men are sent out to Malaya after a lesser period, there is a further period of training in Malaya.
My point is to indicate that it was contemplated in 1947, and is necessary now, that a very considerable part of this period has to be spent on training. It was contemplated then, I repeat, that most of the eighteen months would be taken up with training.
I think that a moment's consideration of the figures which I have given to the House must show that a cut to twelve months would destroy altogether the military value of our forces, as at present deployed. In my view, in present circumstances a cut to eighteen months would diminish their efficiency at least by half. That is a risk which Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to take. If the Opposition had the responsibility of office, I do not believe that they would take it, either.
There is another aspect—the effect of a reduction in the period of service for National Service men upon the Regular element. A reduction at the present time would add to the strain upon the Regulars. Even with twenty-four months' National Service, a battalion on an ordinary three years' overseas tour changes 55 per cent. of its National Service men twice and the remaining 45 per cent. once—and its National Service content is three-fifths of the total. That turnover means a very heavy load of responsibility for the Regulars. A reduction in the period would affect the balance between service at home and overseas for Regulars which we have been trying to create. It would be a further discouragement to Regular re-engagements and another obstacle to what we are all trying to do.
For those reasons, I believe that we have taken the most prudent and economical course in reducing quantity but, nevertheless, trying to preserve quality. We owe it to those who serve and to their families that the forces in which they serve should be reasonably efficient.
I know that cases are brought up from time to time in which it is stated that men are wasting their time. The Service Ministers and I welcome such cases being brought forward. We recognise that in any organisation improvements are possible, and we certainly promise to investigate those cases thoroughly, but I remind the House—I do not want to do it at great length—that in the speech which I made in April on this subject I went at some detail into these matters. Very many inquiries have taken place since the war concerning particular aspects of the use of manpower, some of them inaugurated by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Particulars have been given to the House from time to time and many savings have been made. For example, at present there is a committee under Air Chief Marshal Hollinghurst examining arrangements for the servicing and repair of aircraft and procedure and methods relating to the holding and distribution of equipment.
No. It is under Air Chief Marshal Hollinghurst, but there are civilian members.
We shall certainly continue further inquiries if we think they will fulfil a useful purpose.
There is frequently talk about the size of the tail of the Army. In 1950, the manpower per division was 51,000. In 1955, it has been reduced to about 38,200, the actual strength of the division itself remaining at about 12,500. I can assure the House that the business of combing the tail proceeds all the time.
My attention at the moment is also directed to the civilians employed in the Services to make certain that there is no waste in that field. Of course, there may be occasional cases of the misuse of manpower, but I am sure that it is not on such a scale as to vitiate the conclusion that for the present it is necessary for us to stick to twenty-four months.
Various methods were open to the Government by which numbers could be reduced but the period retained at twenty-four months.
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman comes to that part of his speech, may I point out to him that a great deal of interest is taken, and will be revealed in the debate, in the fact that this country apparently requires to have far more training for its National Service men than do the Allies or the Commonwealth. What he has said so far appears to be a reproach to them. Would he tell us why we cannot train people in a lesser period—in the same period which others seem to require?
Our commitments throughout the world are much more widespread. What I have said is not intended to be a reproach to anybody, but is a statement of what we regard to be the minimum necessary to be fair to the men themselves.
We considered the various ways whereby the total could be reduced but the period retained. We rejected as unsuitable the method of selective service upon the United States pattern—that is to say, calling upon districts to supply quotas from those available. We felt that we are too closely knit a country for that to work satisfactorily here.
The Government rejected the idea of a ballot. In some circumstances a ballot might be acceptable, but a system whereby, according to the luck of the draw, a man would do twenty-four months or nothing seemed to us not tolerable. An extension of the present system of indefinite deferments was considered. I do not say that it would be impossible to work out such a system, but it is extremely difficult to fix the criteria or to know where to draw the line or how to control such a system.
If we were to say, for example, that men with particular skills primarily engaged in the export trades were not to be called up, what about the men working for sub-contractors, or the men working for the producers of the raw materials or of the semi-finished goods? It would be impossible to draw the line. Such a system would also deprive the forces of the type of man for whom they must to some extent rely upon National Service. It would be a further breach in the principle of universality.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now dealing with the proviso in paragraph 4 of the Command Paper which states that the Government refuse to reject the principle of universal liability. Has he overlooked that for years past a man called up into the Royal Air Force has had practically no chance of doing part-time training while a man called up into the Army has done such training? I think that the figures for part-time training were 8,000 out of 150,000. Is not that a departure from the principle of universality?
I do not think that anybody could suggest that the present system is one of absolute universality. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course it is not, because there are different circumstances and conditions. What I am saying is that to have extended the system of indefinite deferments would have been a further breach in the principle of universality. Therefore, the Government decided to allow the age of call-up to rise. As long as we continue this method the age will rise by about three months each year; that is to say, it will reach 19 by 31st March, 1958.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service will deal later with the industrial consequences of this change. Our conclusion was that, on balance, it would not be harmful, but rather the reverse, provided always that the option for early call-up for special reasons is retained, and we propose to retain it. In the White Paper we have tried to be as definite as possible about the time a young man can expect to be called up. We cannot be as definite as we should like to be because it is important to keep freedom of choice of Service and unit for the man called up when practicable.
We hope that the White Paper will help so far as 1956 is concerned, and notice will be given as soon as possible of the plans for 1957. As will be seen from the White Paper, the Government have decided to make a further contribution towards the solution of our manpower difficulties by the reduction of the requirement to do part-time service from sixty days to twenty days. That will be a substantial relief to industry.
In 1954, reserve training of National Service men represented a loss to industry of half-a-million man weeks; next year under the new arrangements, the loss is likely to be about 180,000 man weeks. This reduction is made possible because of the changing role of the reserve forces. The idea that in a global war it would be possible to send forth from these islands a series of fully equipped divisions with their appropriate corps and army troops is no longer realistic. There will have to be found from the reserve forces people for the control and reporting system of the Royal Air Force, men for the Mobile Defence Corps and for fire fighting duties at home. The reserve forces will still have to provide certain specialists who cannot be recruited in sufficient numbers on a regular basis. The Territorial Army, which we believe to be the best reserve Army in the world, will still have an essential role to play, but it will be a different one from that previously conceived.
With our limited resources we cannot give high priority to possible needs in the later stages of a global war. The two divisions committed to N.A.T.O. will continue to be trained and equipped for this role. As regards the remaining divisions, their role and organisation is being reconsidered. It seems to me that the first task of most of them would be to help to maintain organised society in these islands as far as it can be done. They would have to deal with raiders and saboteurs. They must continue to be organised as military forces with a fighting capacity, but changes in their organisation, equipment and training will certainly be necessary.
The Territorial Army, however, with divisions based on groups of counties or similar areas, will remain. The volunteer will still provide the essential backbone of the reserve forces. The diminution of the requirement for compulsory reserve training will improve the balance between the volunteer and the conscript. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is meeting representatives of the Territorial Forces Association in about a fortnight's time to discuss these problems with them.
The country is entitled to expect that the Armed Forces should make the smallest possible demand upon manpower. The figure of 700,000 by March, 1958, is, I believe, the smallest possible demand. The country is entitled to expect the most efficient use of the men taken. Our course of action certainly provides for this. We will willingly investigate specific allegations of misuse of manpower. The country is also entitled to expect that the general system of command and control, ministerial and military, is the most efficient possible.
From my own rather brief experience as Minister of Defence I am sure that the decision to create the post of Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee is a wise one. One of the Chiefs of Staff has to act as chairman at their regular meetings; there is an extra burden of preparatory and consequential work involved in this. The Chiefs of Staff have also to find the Military Adviser to go with Ministers to international conferences such as the N.A.T.O. meetings, and to provide a representative to take part in meetings with Commonwealth or Allied Chiefs of Staff. For these two reasons alone, I believe that the new post is necessary. But I am certain that to have the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee working in close association with me will ease my task.
Accordingly, I ask the House to accept the Motion. Those who attack it must specify, if there is to be any substance or reality in their attack, what commitments should be abandoned, what level of forces they advocate, and how they propose to get useful service from the officers and men whose training necessarily takes so long. It was said by no less a person than the Leader of the Opposition, that the course we recommend means the worst of both worlds. In fact, it means reduced forces, but efficient forces.
If the period of service were at this time to be reduced, I believe that it would mean maintaining our forces at a higher level than that which we propose but at the same time it would mean a less efficient level. That would indeed be the worst of both worlds. I am absolutely convinced that the course which I have recommended to the House is the right one in the national interest.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
regrets that no provision is made in Command Paper No 9608 for an immediate reduction in the length of National Service.
I must say at the outset that we are greatly disappointed with the case which the Minister has made today. The whole of our National Service and its continuation directly depend on our commitments
abroad. I should have expected that in a debate of this calibre the Minister of Defence would himself have given us an outline of how he viewed those commitments and what they are. I shall certainly say something about them in a moment. May I also say that any discussion of manpower which is divorced from a complete picture of defence is both difficult and unrealistic. I realise that today we are not having a general debate on defence and I do not intend to embark on a wide survey, but I should have expected the Minister to say a great deal more than he has as a lead.
I propose to confine my time to an examination of some of the points in the White Paper, to make some proposals for improving Regular recruitment—which seems to me to be admitted on all sides as the keystone of the whole problem with which we are confronted—and to consider certain practical steps, particularly with the background of an industrialist, which might lead to real economy in manpower in the Services and so help with our economic situation in the country, which we all know is fairly difficult at present.
I hope to show that within the commitments that we have, as I understand them, and about which the Minister said nothing, it would then be possible immediately—accepting "immediate" in the term which is understood in the cycle of the call-up under National Service—to make a reduction in the length of National Service. I hope to develop that as I go on.
I should like to say this about National Service, to put the House in memory of its history. It was introduced by the Labour Government in 1947 to meet the then threatening situation. The length of service was increased to two years in 1950 because of the Korean conflict. It was never meant either that the two years should be a permanency or that conscription should be a permanency. We on this side of the House for the most part—I cannot say "all," because that is always a dangerous thing to say—hate conscription; I do not know anybody who does not hate it. At the same time, we have full regard for our responsibilities.
We know that the cause of freedom certainly has to be defended if it is to survive; and, the situation being what it is and what it has been in the past few years, National Service is the fairest way of sharing the burden. But having said that, it is all the more incumbent upon us to see that it is administered as efficiently as possible and kept down to the absolute minimum of time.
The first thing I want to deal with, quite shortly, because I do not know all the commitments—only Her Majesty's Ministers can really understand the details of that—is that we accepted the two-year period of National Service and it never would have been granted by Parliament or accepted by the country but for the Korean outbreak. The situation has changed since then. I have said all this before and other hon. Members have said it, too.
We are out of Korea, we are out of Egypt, and we are out of Italy and Austria. We are out of the Sudan. By that I mean that we have no forces in those countries. There may be some still in Egypt, but they are mostly on the way back. We have got further help from the Dominions—Australia and New Zealand—in Malaya. We have abolished the Anti-Aircraft Command.
When one looks back and compares the strength of the Army pre-war and today, the Regular Army is approximately the same. But before the war we had other commitments, and despite the asset of the Indian Army—I am not belittling the Indian Army; it was first-class—we had the added responsibility in those days that in addition to the officers and men who were seconded to the Indian Army, we kept about 57,000 troops in India itself. That liability has gone, too. I fail to understand, and I cannot see how the man in the street can be expected to understand, with all this change since the National Service period was put up to two years, why it is not possible now to bring down the period of National Service by at least six months, hoping for something better in the not-too-distant future.
Looking at the White Paper, however, I see what has happened. Manifestly, a period of two years is more attractive to the Defence Staff. The admirals, the generals and the air marshals have been plugging this and the Government have given in. In fact, when I got my copy of the White Paper and read it, I wrote across the front, "The Government have surrendered to the generals." [An HON. MEMBER: "Unconditional surrender."] "Unconditional surrender" is not a term I enjoy, having regard to my experience of it in the Second World War. And my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, although he had not seen the White Paper at the time when its substance was aired by the Prime Minister at a notable conference, described it as "dodging the issue and getting the worst of both worlds."
I want to deal with some of the points in the White Paper. The first concerns the change of function of the National Service men. As the Minister rightly pointed out, the original intention was to build up reserves. Now that intention has been dropped and the men are really wanted to supplement the Regular Army. Some of the generals have told me that the last six months of the two years is the only part of the two years that is worth while. I do not believe that for a single moment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ask the commanding officers."] I have been a commanding officer myself. If it is to be claimed that the last six months is the only part that is of any use, then, as some of my hon. and right hon. Friends have just been asking in interruptions, what is the explanation of sending men out on active service with very much less training than that?
I remember perfectly well, although I agree that things were quite simple in those days, that I was a full-blown gunner in the front line after less than six months' training. When I look back on some of the things in which I was trained, I realise that a great part of my time in training might have been done away with and I might have got out there in three months, which I was anxious to do, because I was afraid the war would end before I had a go at a German. I believe it to be the same today.
If it is a fact that all that the Government really want is people to be useful as soldiers—this is the great point—for the period of two years from the inception of their training until its completion and that they are not then thereafter to be expected to be used as a general reserve, surely to goodness it ought to be possible to simplify their training and cut a great deal of it out. I do not see any sign of that in anything that the Minister has said or in anything that is written in the White Paper.
This is the second point I want to tackle. It is claimed, in paragraph 9 of the White Paper, that there will be a substantial relief to industry, that
There will be an accession of manpower to industry of 20,000 by next March and of an additional 80,000 by March, 1958.
In the name of all that is serious in the industrial field, whoever put that into the noddle of the nincompoop who wrote this White Paper? It does not make any sense at all. It is true, of course, that if one counts the heads there will be more of them, but they are right down at the wrong end. What the industrialist wants is his manpower when the men have finished with the Armed Forces, and not before. It is just drawing wool over the eyes of the public to write that sort of nonsense into a White Paper. Actually, of course, it is the worst possible period. It comes at a time between the ages of 16 and 18 or 17 and 19 and there really is no industrial accession of manpower which is useful economically at all.
My third point is this. In paragraph 10, the White Paper states:
A higher age of call-up does, however, bring some advantages, perhaps not in every individual case, but certainly in the majority, from the point of view both of the man and of the employer.
The Government could not sell that one to a mothers' meeting! It really is ridiculous. The real trouble, above all, is that it will not be of any advantage to anybody who does not have an advantage already, if hon. Members understand what I mean. [Laughter.] I am really meaning to be serious in dealing with this in a jocular vein.
What happens today is that apprentices and those whom I call the student variety already get full-time exemption. They already do their call-up service after they have finished their training, so it does not apply to them. Of the last call-up—the 1955 age group—28·2 per cent. of the young men came within that category; 22·9 per cent. were either exempted persons or medically unfit; and just under one-half—48·9 per cent.—of the call-up were this class of people who were to be advantaged in being allowed to hang around for another six to nine months doing absolutely nothing and wondering when they would be allowed to start getting down to the job. I am surprised that any responsible Minister should have allowed that nonsense to be written into a White Paper. I speak from experience on this and I assure my right hon. and hon. Friends—and enemies—that any responsible personnel manager or industrialist would say that that was simply poppycock.
Now I come to the fourth point of my criticism, which, again, has to do with the individual. According to paragraph 14 of the White Paper:
This means, in practice, that the Ministry of Labour and National Service cannot say precisely when a man will be called up until some time after completion of his medical examination.
While I appreciate that in the White Paper there are suggestions which will help both to minimise and to assist young men at this awkward period of their lives, it seems to me to be fantastically inefficient that there is so much messing about.
I do not understand—perhaps I do not understand the mechanics of National Service at all—why there must be such a long period between registration and medical examination. Once this business of filling in forms and registration starts, it unsettles young people. They want to be left alone as long as possible. I should have thought that it was possible to arrange for their registration and medical examination in a far shorter period.
The White Paper admits that after registration men are messed about for another eight weeks. If we add it all together, the amount of time wasted before they get into the forces from the time they register about equals the useful life which the generals say that they have in the forces, namely, six months.
Minister after Minister, in the various HANSARDS which I have tried to study in the last ten days, has said, "I am always trying to do something to make the Services efficient"; and Minister after Minister has done nothing, and one is thrown back on to the old conclusion, that the Ministers do not know how to do it. It is too sad that the young people of the country should be messed about in this way and submitted to this unsettling condition for far too long a time.
I have one or two good general observations to make about the White Paper. The first is that it practically gives us our point. It says, in fact, that had there been an inquiry there would have been a reduction in the period of National Service long before this, otherwise what does it mean by saying that it is possible to reduce by 100,000 people the size of the forces in the course of the next two years?
The second thing that it does is to prove the complete failure of the Government in their recruiting programme for the Regular Army, which is the key to the situation. The Secretary of State for War said in the debate on the Army Estimates at the beginning of this year, "Of course we should not have a call-up if we had more Regular troops. If the whole Army were Regular we could do with 100,000 men less." What has he done to encourage Regular recruiting since then?—nothing.
We have had one or two suggestions come out today. Gracious me, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is an ex-Service man and knows this problem, and he ought to have bullied his Cabinet colleagues into doing something about it, instead of allowing them to sit about doing nothing, which is what they have done. At any rate, I am going to make a few proposals, even though the Minister cannot.
First, I want to emphasise that it is not merely a question of pay and pensions, although it is vitally important that the men in the forces should be paid on terms equal to what they would get in civilian life—[Interruption.] I do not know that I can face interruptions from behind as well as in front of me. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] It is not only a question of pay and pensions. The fact is that Her Majesty's Government have never faced up to the problem of long-term service in prosperous times and full employment. That is the real trouble. I suggest that what is really wanted is this. Young men should understand before they are invited to enlist that they really have a prospect of a good career in the forces. I am sure, from the reports which have come back to me, that there is a feeling that shortly after entering the Regular Services they are channelled into one channel or another, and they have very little chance of getting out of it, or of substantial promotion. If something could be done on those lines, I am sure that it would be a big help.
Secondly, something ought to be done about barrack conditions. The Secretary of State said, in one debate, that nothing had been done to some of the barracks since 1900. I should think that he was dead right. [An HON. MEMBER: "Earlier than that."] Perhaps it dates back to the Crimea. We all know from our own experience that conditions are not what they ought to be, and that men will not be attracted by the sort of early Victorian surroundings and conditions which one finds in so many barracks in this country. Better married quarters are also important.
Another thing to which I would pay attention—some of my hon. Friends say there is not much in this, but I think it is important; I do not know why the Minister is laughing, because I am trying to put a serious case for improving Regular recruitment—is the difficulty that people now retire earlier than they used to. While it may be true that in a period of full employment men coming out of the forces at 40, 45 or 50, or whatever it may be, have no difficulty in getting employment, should the economic situation change—and, goodness knows, it will if this Government stay in power much longer—the men retiring will be in difficulties.
I should have thought we might have a scheme to correspond with the King's Roll, which we had after the First World War, whereby industrial concerns were obliged to keep jobs for people who had served their country in one form or another. That is difficult to carry out, but it is a suggestion, and running parallel with that is the fact that these men should get some priority of housing; otherwise they may find that they cannot get anywhere to live, in spite of their having done a good job and a proper job for us.
Another thing has always irritated me. I hope that the Minister will pay some attention to what I call the petty and irritating way in which discipline is sometimes administered, because I am sure it puts people off.
Finally, I put forward the point that it is most important that during their period of service men should have opportunities of training which is suitable to the jobs which they propose to take up when they come out of the forces at the end of their time. I am sure that would make an enormous difference. I give this credit to the Minister for tackling the school situation. I have not studied what he said very carefully because I did not make a note of it, but it sounded as if he were aware of the difficulty in which Regular Service men find themselves when dealing with the education of their children. So much for the White Paper itself.
I now want to say a few words about two or three other things. The first is, why two years? I have made a study of the period of service in other armies in the Western orbit, so to speak, and except for Greece and Turkey no army has as long a term of service as we have. That surely implies one of two things. Either we are less efficient, with less good men or less good equipment, or the other people are not doing their job. It means one or the other, and, in the latter case, they are not bearing their fair burden. It seems to me to be absurd to say that the rest of N.A.T.O. forces can get on with eighteen months, and yet we must have two years. We shall find ourselves in an extraordinary position in Germany. The victorious British soldier will be conscripted for two years, while the defeated German is doing only eighteen months. That is one point which I should have thought would give people cause for irritation.
I want to ask, why the sudden enthusiasm for a strategic Reserve now? We have got along without a strategic Reserve for about four years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Did the right hon. Gentleman advocate it?"] I was not asking what I advocated, but I advocated a cut in service. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in the debate of 28th April was that we could, of course, have cut it if we did not have a strategic Reserve. As far as I understand things from reading the newspapers, a major war is less imminent now than it was then and I do not see why the building of the strategic Reserve need be hurried on at this moment. However, if it must be hurried on, could not the numbers involved be very greatly reduced if arrangements were made so that, for example, a complete division could be airlifted at any moment from anywhere in this country or from wherever the strategic Reserve be situated? It would be a help if it could be, and that might halve the size of the strategic Reserve.
It is very nice of the Minister to tell me that. That is one of the many things he left out of his speech. He did not say much about the airlift, either. I came here thinking that we should hear a lot about commitments. Now we know that some calculations have been made and some points have been taken care of.
I am told that in the pipeline of men going to and fro at any one time there may be between 20,000 and 30,000 people. That could be improved, the number reduced, if air travel were used more. In industry today, if one can avoid it, one does not send anybody otherwise than by air. Worn-out members of the executive travel by sea, so that they can have a rest before they reach their destination. Generally speaking, what one does is to send people by air because that saves time and money and is very much more efficient, and the cost does not work out at more. I have just been round the world, and the cost worked out at 5d. a mile—far cheaper than any other method of travel. [An HON. MEMBER: "And feeding?"] Oh, no, it did not include board and lodging as well.
One more proposal, and then I shall come to my conclusion. It is this. During the Second World War—I have forgotten now which year it was, but I think it was 1941 or 1942—Mr. Ernest Bevin organised from the Ministry of Labour teams of competent people who went round industry, whether one liked it or not, and combed out the manpower, examined the manpower situation, to see whether more men could be got off the production line, to see whether they were being wasted, and, if they were, to have them put where they would be more useful, or, if necessary, into the forces. Even the most efficient of us found that those teams managed to turn something up. Very surprised I was, very surprised.
I suggest that the process in the reverse order should be undertaken now, that we ought to have a team of competent people to see whether the manpower in the forces is being usefully engaged. In attendance on the team there could be some Service personnel, for I quite see the difficulty of the forces; and the pure amateurs would not do entirely, although certainly purely professional soldiers, sailors and airmen will not do, for they would only open their ugly maws wider and swallow more. What we want is a lay team, a civilian team with assistants, if the Government like, to comb right through the Armed Forces to see what can be done to obtain greater efficiency and a lesser demand for manpower in the Armed Forces, and, in consequence, more men free to go to the industrial production line, which is so essential, more particularly in the face of our balance of payments position.
I think the right hon. Gentleman would like to know that the Services—although I am speaking for my own—invited Sir James Reid Young, who, until recently at least, was the managing efficiency expert of Vickers, to carry out an inquiry of this nature, which he did. There was an efficiency expert engaged by the Royal Air Force recently, too. That kind of experiment has been tried, and has resulted in considerable savings.
I am delighted to hear it, but in the absence of any precise knowledge all I can say is that we heard some very funny stories at Question Time today. Perhaps I should have said curious rather than funny. Pathetic; but very curious. I do not know how those teams work, but I am glad to hear that something is being done, and now I know that they exist I will have another look at the matter.
When I was a Minister I used to keep coming across dumps of machine tools and machines in "moth balls," as the Americans say. It appears now, having regard to nuclear warfare, that we do not want military reserves, and even if there is a need for a reserve there will be no time to get this sort of stuff out of the moth balls into the production line, so why not free all the manpower now being wasted in maintaining and guarding it? And why could not that material be sent overseas to help capital investment in backward countries, or to help with our balance of payments?
I come now to my conclusion. It is this: after two years or more during which we pressed for an inquiry and a reduction in the term of National Service all we have got is a miserable document which does not get us very far. There is no doubt that had there been an inquiry there would have been a reduction in the length of service.
But before he does so there are words in the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman has moved which I should like him to be kind enough to explain. Does
… an immediate reduction in the length of National Service
mean that men now serving with the Colours would have their period of service reduced—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—or that those about to enlist would serve for a shorter period?
Yes. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well from his experience in this House how difficult it is to put a qualitative adjective or adverb into a Motion and have it properly understood. There was a recent occasion when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) said that if only we on this side had not included the word "immediate" in a Motion of ours he would have agreed with it. The Motion was:
That this House, recognising that the hydrogen bomb … constitutes a grave threat to civilisation … would welcome an immediate initiative by Her Majesty's Government to bring about a meeting between the Prime Minister and the heads of the Administrations of the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 36.]
The right hon. Gentleman said:
We shall not divide against this Motion provided that it is clearly understood that the word 'immediate' does not commit us to
action at an unsuitable time …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1954; Vol. 526, c. 58.]
In other words, we submit that there is, within reason, a case for a reduction now, that it ought to be declared now and become effective within eighteen months. That is what I mean by the Amendment.
The White Paper gives no indication of what the Government are going to do in 1958, whether they will put off the call-up until the young man gets to the age of 20 and his age just about matches up with that of the people finishing their time, or whether they will reduce the period. It ignores the vital need of industry for more manpower. The Government have given way to the insatiable maws of the generals. We cannot afford to carry as much as we are, and in view of the general ineptitude of the Government, their failure to face the facts, it is for Parliament to say, "This is all you can have and no more. Make the most of it"; and to insist on a reduction now.
In addressing you for the first time, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am conscious of the feelings of trepidation which, no doubt, many hon. Members arid, perhaps, even some right hon. Members as well will remember from the days when they made their first speeches here, and I must ask for the indulgence of the House.
It is particularly a pleasure to me to intervene for the first time in a debate of this sort, because my predecessor in representing the Stroud division, Sir Robert Perkins, very often spoke in such debates, for he interested himself especially in the problems of the Air Force and of the Territorial Army. I have a special pleasure also in following the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), because, during my time in the Forces during the war I used to read with considerable interest of his efforts to make life safer for me.
I welcome the fact that it has proved possible to lighten to some extent the burden of National Service on the country. I do not believe that the call-up actually bears hardly on individuals, especially those who are lucky enough to go abroad and serve with units on active service. I believe that the Report which the Ministry of Labour and National Service published recently proves that the call up, however unwelcome personally, does not actually do very much harm to the individuals concerned.
It is, of course, otherwise for the nation as a whole. The very large military establishments and the large number of Regulars tied down in training National Service men and the comparatively short time of the military efficiency of National Service men, even with two years' service, must mean that, militarily speaking, this is an inefficient way of protecting the country.
I also welcome the methods which are now to be employed. I am quite certain that it is essential at present that the two-year period should be continued, because almost half of every active unit, at least in the Service which makes greatest use of National Service men, is based on officers, N.C.O.s and men who are completing the last six months or so of their service. If they are taken away, the efficiency of the Army certainly will be affected.
It is also mathematically clear that the present system proposed by the Government cannot indefinitely continue, because in two or three years' time the age of those called up under the system of three call-ups a year rather than four will rise to an unacceptable height. It will be necessary to adopt some other solution unless the numbers in the Forces are to be allowed to rise to their present level.
It is not appropriate to speculate now on what will happen in two or three years' time. It is certain that if we can increase the number of Regulars we shall very largely remove some of the most difficult problems. I should like to consider for a moment whether enough use is made of the existing manpower in the Regular Forces.
It is common ground, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence said so today, that we cannot look forward to transporting, and if we could transport we probably could not maintain, massive divisions, armed with the most modern weapons, for a long period in a foreign land. Therefore, some of our troops would have to be more lightly equipped than has hitherto been thought necessary for first-line troops. It seems to me, therefore, that the administrative tail can be easily cut, and that a little more can be done in that direction than has been done hitherto.
If the equipment is to be lighter and more easily transportable it should also be very much simpler, and that should enable us to cut the number employed on maintaining equipment. Nobody who has had experience of trying to make military wireless sets work, in places where they are expected to work, and has had experience of trying to teach people to make them work, would disagree that if years ago we had had push-button wireless sets such as the Americans had had for a long period, the time employed in training men would have been much shorter and the work much simpler.
I think that civilian employees could also be used less wastefully than they are at present. The Minister said that he was looking into that matter. I hope that he will also consider handing over suitable dumps and depots to civilian contractors, who are better equipped to handle labour and other problems than are the Services themselves.
Are the war establishments of the fighting units pruned down as much as possible? I well remember that during the war it was my duty as a staff officer to recommend from time to time an increase in establishment—an officer here and two or three men there—and I scarcely remember a time when I did not write an extremely convincing brief which obtained the results that were sought. It is much easier to argue for one's own unit than to criticise from outside, but at the end of the war all who had been doing that had brought about the result that establishments generally were far too lavish and bigger than they should be, perhaps not on the American scale but very like it.
I remember that the unit in which I served took prisoner the opposing German formation. Our unit was commanded by a major who had the captains, lieutenants, second-lieutenants and sergeants and even the batmen that their ranks demanded. The opposing unit was commanded by a sergeant-major, and observing from the opposite side of the hill I never noticed that their performance was less efficient than ours.
I am aware of the danger of having expensive aeroplanes lying about for a long time doing nothing whilst waiting to be used for air trooping, and it might well be considered whether, in conjunction with air charter companies, something might be done so that aeroplanes might be used by civilians when they are not required by troops.
Increasing the Regular members of the forces is perhaps a more stubborn problem. Pay and allowances have been mentioned and are under consideration at present. I am sure that the education allowance will be of benefit but I feel that any increase in pay must be substantial, otherwise the forces will feel only that they have been brought back to parity with those in industry.
On the question of conditions generally and accommodation in particular, I agree respectfully with the right hon. Member for Ipswich. In many cases accommodation is deplorable. I know that there have been difficulties in the past but I do not know that a great deal is now being done. One must expect conditions to be uncomfortable in small stations abroad, but I was recently in Malta which has been a military station for over 150 years and I found that the married quarters there were quite insufficient in number and lower in quality than they should be.
Recently a famous regiment went to a very deserted part of the world. I am told that it had ninety-seven married families, and that when it arrived at the station it was found that only six married quarters were provided. It was hardly surprising that a great many wanted to give up and refuse to go out. I am sure that the Secretary of State for War recognises the regiment to which I am referring.
It is necessary to consider money, of course, in this matter of providing quarters, but could we not use the breathing space which the atom bomb has given us to divert money from making conventional weapons to improving accommodation and bringing the conditions in which our troops are required to live up to modern standards of comfort? One could hope in this way to maintain and increase the numbers in the Regular Forces, and perhaps in two or three years' time, when this question is considered again, it might be found less intractable than it is this afternoon.
I should like to say a few words about the Territorial Army. I speak as a present serving member with my yeomanry regiment in Gloucestershire. I welcome wholeheartedly the Government's proposal for a very large measure of voluntary service for the Territorial Army. This proposal came in the nick of time.
I do not want to fight too long a battle already won, but in case the policy is reversed at any time I want to go on record as saying that, in the country, where establishments are small and widely scattered, the Territorial Army was on the point of breaking down. We had not the instructors and accommodation required, and the system was not working. If the prevailing conditions had continued for three or four years more, the Territorial Army in the country districts might have been killed stone dead. There is still an obligation to serve twenty days, and I ask with some temerity whether that requirement is really worth while.
We understand that it is not the primary purpose of the Territorial Army to produce reserves for the Regular Army at the present time and twenty days is not very long. It amounts only to one camp and two weekends. I presume that the year chosen will be the year after the National Service man has been discharged from the Forces. If that is so, it is the wrong year to choose because that is probably the only year in his whole career in which he does not need a refresher, whereas three years later it might be of great value.
There are one or two other considerations. It is natural that a National Service man who comes for a short time to a unit where he has never been before and probably never will be again, should not have much loyalty or esprit de corps. It may also be the case that as a stranger he will have to perform in those fourteen days the less agreeable jobs which are not necessarily military but have to be done. Hon. Members know the kind of jobs I mean. So he may get an even worse impression from his fourteen days than he might otherwise have got.
Also I believe that the expense, the paper work and the kitting out involved in that fourteen days might be considerable, and I wonder whether it would not now be better to make a clean sweep. Of course the sixty days' service obviously produces more valuable results, and I dare say that ought to stay.
I venture to suggest that the proposals of the Government represent an important step forward in the efficiency of the forces and in relief of our industrial manpower, and in the light of the foreign situation today I do not think the country can ask for more.
It is customary in this House to congratulate a new Member on the occasion of his maiden speech. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) has more than earned the indulgences for which he asked and I offer my congratulations to him without hesitation and with all sincerity. The hon. Gentleman speaks with almost impeccable confidence for a new Member—long may it continue. Moreover, he has displayed a sense of independence in his observations which will make a useful contribution on his side of the House. You would hardly expect me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to accept the main argument of the hon. Gentleman because it appeared to me, that in the first part of his speech, at any rate, it was contrary to the Amendment which we have ventured to submit to the Motion of the Government. But, after all, one expects differences of opinion in this Assembly and one must make the best of it or the worst of it.
There is one matter upon which I am in complete accord with the Minister of Defence. National Service—length of service, the number of men required and the like—cannot be considered in isolation. It is closely associated with our entire defence organisation. I shall have to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a few questions and, as I speak early in the debate, it will suit the convenience of the Government because they can reflect upon those questions, obtain the information, and enlighten our minds at the end of the debate.
I should like to make this preliminary observation which may not be agreeable to everybody in the House. Whatever we do, we must adopt no measure or measures calculated to weaken our defence organisation. Recently there have been manifestations of charm, good will and apparent readiness for co-operation in certain quarters. I speak of the international sphere. We welcome those manifestations. Nevertheless, let us not be wholly deceived. After all, there have been incidents recently in the Middle East and during the conversations now proceeding in Geneva which, if they do not create suspicions in our minds, at any rate lead us to the conclusion that we must exercise very great caution in dealing with matters of defence. I put it no higher than that.
Having said that, I proceed to disagree fundamentally with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It seemed to me that what his speech amounted to was an argument not for a reduction in the period of National Service in the foreseeable future or at any time in the future, but rather in the direction of fastening a two-year period of National Service permanently on the youth of this country.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman began by telling the House that what with the economies already effected—the reduction in the Regular element, due to wastage no doubt, perhaps to other causes, and to the reduction in the numbers of National Service men—and the reductions contemplated we should save by 1958 about 170,000 men. But, said the right hon. and learned Gentleman, we do not seek quantity; it is quality we are after, and for what reason? To promote greater efficiency in the forces. When he said that a query immediately came to my mind which I venture to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman now.
If it is efficiency the Government are seeking, what has been happening in the last three and a half years? Because if we are now seeking efficiency and are adopting these new measures in order to promote it, that, in my judgment, constitutes a harsh indictment—I will not say of the Minister of Defence, who has only recently occupied his high position, but of the Secretary of State for War. Indeed, I would say to the Secretary of State for War not that he is dishonest—that is a much abused term—but rather that his principal success is that he has achieved a series of miscalculations.
Some of us can recall those flamboyant speeches made by the Secretary of State for War when he sat on this side of the House: how he demanded Commonwealth defence, how he insisted that we should prop up the colonial forces, how we should seek to increase the Regular element in the forces by providing them with more emoluments—all that and much else. Well, where is Commonwealth defence? We hardly hear a word about it nowadays. Indeed, at the last conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers we understand that the subject of defence was not considered.
If the facts were established—presumably, for various reasons, they are not to be established—we should discover that the contributions from the Commonwealth, apart from the Mother Country, are almost negligible. I know there are a few contributions here and there, but they are really of little value. However, there is not a word from the Members of the Government, although they had a great deal to say when they were on this side of the House.
It is the same in respect of colonial forces. Practically nothing has been done in that direction. The Secretary of State for War has remained silent on these matters, no matter how vocal he was when he spoke from this side of the House.
It seemed to me that the argument of the Minister of Defence was illogical. I would recall to the House what transpired when the demand for a review of the National Service Acts was made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House nearly four years ago. First of all, there was a demand for an inquiry, and then the demand was related to a possible reduction in the period of service. The Government's reply was that it would be impossible to cut the period of service because of our commitments.
Everybody knows—I think Government spokesmen will readily admit it—that our commitments have been substantially reduced during the past three or four years. We are out of Korea or practically out. Indeed, if we have any men in Korea, we ought to know the reason why and should be told what they are doing there. We have a certain number of men in Malaya. It is no use retailing the figures; they are familiar to some of us. We have a number of men in Kenya, and now a number of men in Cyprus. Taken altogether, however, they are far fewer than the number of men who were in the Canal Zone before the decision was taken to evacuate it. Therefore, if our commitments have been so substantially reduced, the argument that we could not cut the period of service because of our commitments now falls to the ground. That is the first point.
The Government have always said that it is quite impossible for us to cut the period of service because of those commitments and because we are in a more vulnerable position in contrast with other countries associated with N.A.T.O. Let us take the case of France and consider the substantial commitments which have been imposed on her because of events in North Africa and previously in Indo-China. She had to make severe inroads into her forces in order to deal with those situations—I am not discussing the merits or demerits of them; the facts are well known—yet in spite of these substantial commitments France, who is associated with us in N.A.T.O., occupies the time of her conscripts for not twenty-four months but only eighteen months. Indeed, it has been alleged against the French that they do not call upon the men to serve the whole of the eighteen months. However, I will let that pass; let us assume that the period is eighteen months. That is six months less than in this country in spite of all France's commitments.
That may well be so. I do not disagree with that. If it be true, I accept it; but I do not see that it affects my argument at all. The fact remains—this will not be disputed—that although the French have far greater commitments thon ours at the present time, their period of service is eighteen months only. Indeed, that applies to nearly all the N.A.T.O. countries, the exceptions being those referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), Turkey and Greece, and even there the facts are not well established.
Incidentally, might I, in passing, congratulate my right hon. Friend upon his very able and witty speech on the occasion when he has been assigned the duty of dealing with defence matters from the Opposition Front Bench. I can only hope that he will not prove as unpopular as I proved to be in certain quarters because of having occupied that position at one time.
Let us consider something else that was said by the Government when we made our first demand. They said, "You want an inquiry, but surely we could not allow an independent body to deal with matters which involve security." So it has been left to the generals, the air marshals, the admirals and the rear-admirals to deal with the subject of waste and the other matters. Does anyone expect a general to agree to a reduction in the number of men under his command if he can possibly help it? We would not expect him to do so. There is a general, a lieutenant-general, a major-general, a number of brigadiers, a number of majors, a number of captains, and so on, and if the number of junior officers is reduced, there is no reason why there should be such a large array of senior officers. This is a vested interest, one which has got to be broken down sooner or later.
If the Government had agreed to our request for an inquiry three and a half years ago, and if the facts had been established about waste, the relationship of the National Service men with the Regular element in training and the like, and, in particular, in relation to the emergence of nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, by this time there would have been a substantial reduction in the period of service. There is no doubt about it at all. The fact is that the Government were afraid to have the inquiry.
We still demand an inquiry. Let the Government reject our Amendment—as, indeed, they will do because they have the majority—but let them institute an independent inquiry, perhaps a Select Committee of this House. Let the facts be established and let nothing be concealed, and I will guarantee that the Report of that Select Committee or committee of independent persons with no vested interests will conclusively demonstrate that there is no reason why we should continue with a period of twenty-four months.
What is really at the back of the trouble? As my right hon. Friend rightly said, it is the Regular element. Who is responsible for the present position in respect of the Regular element? It is hon. Gentlemen opposite. After all, the Government have now had four years in office. I remember how hon. Gentlemen opposite attacked us when they sat on this side of the House. Nevertheless, the Labour Government raised pay on one occasion by £55 million. I can tell hon. Members that that was not an easy thing to do, because we had tussles with the Treasury, but we succeeded. I was very much in favour of it because when I went to the War Office and was asked what I intended to do, I said, "I want to do for the soldiers what I have tried to do for the miners." I see no reason why a Regular soldier should not be provided with pay commensurate not necessarily with his task—in view of there being periods of peace and periods of war, it is very difficult to analyse it—but with his needs, not as a Regular soldier but as a citizen of the country. Surely there is no logical argument against it. I would pay the Regular soldier as much as the country can afford; and, in my judgment, the country can afford much more than it is paying the private soldier at this time. I would go so far as to say that there are many junior officers who require more remuneration, and I would not object to that at all. The more concessions we provide for the Regular element, the more likely we are to build up that element and so make it unnecesary to have a 24-month period of National Service.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich that better conditions are necessary. I remember that when I went to the War Office and made a fuss about barrack conditions I was told not to make too much fuss, because that only denigrated the Army and men would not join if we said that barrack accommodation and conditions were bad. We went on saying it and eventually we put some substance into the financial arrangements for the provision of married quarters; but much more requires to be done.
I want to come to the point of real substance. For what do we want twenty-four months' service? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister for Defence said—and I thought that this was the most illogical part of the argument which he deployed—that twenty-four months was needed because the men had to be trained. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If he does not agree with me, the Minister of Defence will not rely on hon. Members opposite, but upon himself. I ventured then to intervene and I now put the point again. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that twenty-four months' service was required, because it took at lease twelve months to undertake the task of training certain categories. I interjected to point out that for the purposes of actual fighting no more than six months was required. Will anybody deny that? I stand by the facts. The Labour Government sent men to Malaya and Korea after six months' training. I disliked it intensely.
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the reason for sending those men to Malaya was that they could get further training in local conditions when they got there and they got considerably more from their training there than at home. That is the truth.
It is no use the hon. and gallant Member telling me about these matters, because I had to deal with them. I was very conscious of what was required. I had to deal with them both as Secretary of State for War and as Minister of Defence. We had to send men out. Questions were asked in the House, particularly by hon. Members on my own side. It was a very difficult situation, but because of the emergency the men had to go. Undoubtedly there was some training when they arrived in Malaya, because they were not acquainted with jungle training and had to gain the experience.
But after a few weeks of jungle training they were pitch-forked into battle and the same has applied elsewhere. I am not asking, I merely tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that men are being sent to Cyprus with no more than six months' military training and they will be expected to engage, I will not say in major operations, but in minor operations which can involve them in serious trouble. If the House could be told how many National Service men, after six, seven or eight months' training, were killed in Malaya, Korea and elsewhere, it would be startled.
I believe that my argument is sound. It is that after a short period of training men can be pitch-forked into the struggle. I therefore contend that no more than that is required. I take into account the period of leave, the time it takes to send men out and the time it takes for them to come back. Nevertheless, they under- take the fighting they were called upon to do. What about men in special categories? I have always been ready to make a distinction between the ordinary combatant soldier, who after a period of training is thrown into the struggle, and the technical branches.
The men who have a knowledge of signals, electronics, the repair of vehicles, and the like—I need not go into details—N.C.Os., and so on, obviously require a longer period of training. The Minister of Defence said that it requires twelve months and I stand by what he said. He talked about eight, nine, or twelve weeks' leave and the time to send them out and bring them back. How long are they occupied in the forces after having this specialised training? Is it worth while having them for three, four, or five months? It is not worth while and we have to come back to the Regular element.
If I understood the Minister of Defence aright, his argument meant that because of the need for specialised training, these special categories need not two years of National Service, but three years. Indeed, generals have often asked for that and speeches to that end have been made. It is not a reduction they want, but an increase, because it is now recognised that it is unlikely under present conditions of pay and so on that we shall be able to prop up the Regular element and thus reduce the period of National Service. I recognise the difficulty. I believe that if we had tackled it three and a half years ago, we would have made an advance. It is not so easy now.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich was catechised about whether he wanted an immediate reduction, there seemed to be some dubiety on both sides of the House. It seemed to me that the right answer to give—I venture to give it, even if I speak for myself—is that if we do not ask for an immediate reduction, but leave it to the Government, they will take full advantage of that, because they will never do it. If we ask for an immediate reduction, we do not mean that it can be done tomorrow, or next week, or before Christmas. We ask for a plan now for reorganising the forces and deploying them properly and efficiently—if I may use that expression—so that it can be done in a few months.
What would remain? National Service men would then be much more contented. I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Stroud. I do not accept the view that fellows do not like being National Service men. But I know from my experience that many of them would rather work in the mines and get the pay, or work on the surface, or be carpenters, joiners or engineers, or continue their apprenticeships. I know that they would rather do that than have 4s. a day as National Service men with the prospect of getting 7s. a day for the last six months of the two years' National Service. Nevertheless, although that is true, we have to consider the point not so much from the standpoint of the individual as in the best interests of the country.
That brings me to what is perhaps the most important consideration. We have had a debate on the Budget. I listened very intently to all that was said, and what I did not hear I read. But last year, when the Chancellor deployed his Budget arguments, among other things he said that we must cut defence costs. I know from behind the scenes—[An HON. MEMBER: "How?"]—that he has been concerned about this matter. I should not be asked how I know; I do know. He has been very much concerned and perturbed about rising defence costs which are a burden on the whole nation, as finance costs are a burden on other nations some of them more able to endure it than are we. How are defence costs to be cut down? It can be done only by reducing manpower and that may be one of the reasons why the Government have now decided to reduce manpower.
Is it a question of reducing manpower, because we do not need the men—or what is the reason? Are the Government sure this will not weaken defence? But if defence costs are to be reduced, I suggest that they can be reduced even more rapidly by reducing the period of National Service. From my own experience—and the Secretary of State for War should know this, even if he will not admit it—the reason is that not so many men, N.C.Os., and so on, would be needed to train the others. That is very important. It takes too long to train some of them. The methods are not speeded up and very often training itself is wasted, because the men are trained in methods that may never be used in actual warfare. I do not blame the Army, the Air Force or the Navy for that, but it happens. It is unavoidable in the Services.
The way in which to tackle the job is to cut down the period of National Service. The Government should tackle the whole question of manpower in our forces. They should really tackle it—I do not mean by Hollingshurst inquiries, and the rest of it; I know what they are only too well. That sort of thing will not make any substantial change. I am not attacking these people. I do not say that they are evil minded, or anything of that sort; it simply happens that they have vested interests.
The Government will not cut down the period in that way. If the Government were forced to cut the period they would revise, reorganise and review in relation to nuclear strategy, and the result would be that we should be far better off within the next twelve months or so. Recently, there was an exercise under S.H.A.P.E. in Germany which was conducted by General Richard Gale, a very fine soldier and administrator with modern ideas about strategy. What was the conclusion? It was that we could operate with smaller divisions. He is fortified in that view by the declarations repeated so frequently by Field Marshal Montgomery, who has been saying this for a couple of years. Sir John Slessor, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, and others, have been saying it. The size of divisions can be reduced substantially.
I recall a discussion at Fontainebleau five years ago, when many admirals, generals and marshals were present from the N.A.T.O. countries. We discussed the question and they rejected the idea. But now the conception of a division of 18,000 or 22,000 men with supporting forces—a divisional slice of 40,000 men, with a vast array of vehicles many of which will never be used but which will encumber the roads in the event of war—is Alice in Wonderland.
I am only too willing to be brought up to date. If my conception of a divisional slice is extravagant and it has been reduced by a few thousand men, nevertheless my argument is sound enough. When we have large unwieldy divisions we are bound to have a fairly large divisional slice. That is unavoidable.
The French have adopted a different system, a system of combat groups. The Germans have now decided to have smaller divisions, if ever German re-armament comes to fruition. Some of us are a little doubtful whether German re-armament is altogether desirable in view of what is happening in N.A.T.O. The French are out; they have withdrawn some of their divisions because of circumstances in North Africa. If the Germans should arm, as they may do, they may become the predominant force in N.A.T.O. We had better watch our step, because some of them are not altogether praiseworthy. However, I do not want to embark on a discussion about that. I merely mention it. What have the Germans decided to do?
Do not bother me.
The Germans have decided to have divisions of no more than 12,000 men. If the size of divisions is reduced we can reduce the numbers of men not only for combatant purposes but for maintenance, and all the rest of it, and the Government can reduce the period of National Service. There would be no difficulty about that.
I beg the Government to be a little more advanced in their ideas. Let them get the right concept. Nuclear methods have emerged, and they have come to stay until the world is less crazy and we promote total, or, at any rate, partial, disarmament. In the context of nuclear strategy it is absurd to have large ground forces. The Russians have reduced their land forces by 600,000 men. The Americans contemplate a reduction of 300,000 men. [HON. MEMBERS: "From what?"] I agree that it does not mean a great deal. The Russians still have a substantial number of men. Let us take note of that.
My final point is that by all means we should have our defence organisation. Let it be efficient and well based, strategically and otherwise, but do not employ vast numbers of men for long periods of time if it is unnecessary. Promote efficiency, by all means. Step up the training. If we had a period of eighteen months instead of two years we should accelerate the training methods, and that is the best way of tackling the problem. The Government have not gone far enough. They have rejected over and over again our demand for an inquiry. Now they reject our demand for an immediate reduction, which means a reduction after planning has taken place.
In consequence, they will not reduce defence costs which is essential if we are not to burden the economy. The Government have failed, and no one more so than the Secretary of State for War. I say that in a most friendly fashion. We are much more gentlemanly than hon. Members opposite. I recall what he has said about me and the statements inspired about me in the newspapers and elsewhere and how the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford put him in his place. He will remember the occasion. When I think of all those things I realise how tolerant, decent and humane we are. If I may be permitted to indulge in a vulgarism, we ought to take their trousers off. I do not mean the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Labour. He is a noble and honourable exception, but that only proves the rule.
The Government have not gone far enough. We will keep at them until public opinion forces them to take the requisite action, just as it has compelled them to produce the White Paper.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) implied, and his right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) stated explicitly, that the White Paper on National Service represented a surrender by the Government to the generals. I seriously ask the right hon. Member for Easington to consider whether, even if that were an apt description of the Government's action, it was not better to surrender to the generals than to surrender to other forces, details of which no doubt he will remember better than me, because I was not in the House before 1950 and I gather that he was quite intimately concerned with that other surrender. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will know the surrender about which I speak.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government wish to make the two-year period of service a permanency. I must choose my language extremely carefully, but he must realise that that is not true. The White Paper itself is, by its very nature, a temporary solution to the problem. Within two or three years the Government will again have to face the issue of the two-year period. Therefore, no suggestion that we are making an attempt to make the two-year period a permanency can carry very much weight.
I am very glad that we are again having a re-examination of this subject. The problem of how best we can deploy our manpower for purposes of defence has been with us for fifteen or sixteen years already, and no doubt will be with us for some time to come. It seems to me that there are two very important points of agreement between the two sides of the House; first, that National Service must continue—the right hon. Member for Ipswich said so in his speech—and, secondly, if I may put it in this cumbersome way, that National Service man-hours must be decreased. On the other hand, there is the important point of disagreement as to the methods by which this reduction should be achieved.
I am bound to say that if we could view all these matters in a vacuum, I should feel that there were many real and solid advantages in the Opposition case for a reduction in the term of National Service rather than in the Government plan to restrict the call-up. But in fact we cannot look at this matter in a vacuum. We cannot ignore the facts put before us by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence. We cannot ignore the commitments, about which I should like to say a little later on.
I said I should like to say something about it.
We cannot ignore the changed purpose of National Service and the part at present being played by National Service men. So far as I could understand the right hon. Member for Ipswich, although he talked about a reduction in the past of our commitments throughout the world, he did not adequately face the situation of the necessity of building and maintaining a strategic reserve. He merely said that we had managed, a few years ago, to get along without one.
I would make the point that at any rate there does not seem much doubt as to which of the two methods, the reduction in the length of the period, or the restriction of the call-up, would be more popular in the country. There is no doubt in my mind about it. My right hon. Friends have been criticised recently for doing what they thought to be popular—I certainly must not pursue that argument or I shall very quickly be out of order. But I am told that the Opposition are alert and ready to appreciate all points, and I am sure that this fact will not have escaped the lively intelligence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) who is to speak. It seems quite clear to me that in this case, whatever may be the case about other matters, the Government have steadfastly refused to yield to what they believe to be popular pressure. In my opinion, and perhaps in the opinion of other hon. Gentlemen, when a Government refuse to yield to popular pressure there are at least grounds for suspecting that the reasons for their policy are even better than usual.
The other difficulty I find—and I am bound to say the right hon. Member for Easington made me more confused than ever—is about the behaviour of the Opposition over the last six months. At the General Election, five months ago, there was, so far as I remember, no campaign for a cut. There was a good deal of talk, was there not, about the need for an inquiry? But on 28th April, which was only one week before the Dissolution, the right hon. Gentleman himself moved a Motion calling for a committee, preferably of this House, to consider the whole question of National Service.
On that occasion my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence moved an Amendment which spoke about the declared intention of Her Majesty's Government to lighten the existing burden of National Service as soon as circumstances permitted. That intention was unanimously approved by the House, and I wonder perhaps whether it was not a relief to the Opposition that their Motion calling for an inquiry did not command the vote of one single hon. Member of this House. I say that because it certainly seems to me a most odd constitutional device and if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite again become responsible for the Government of the United Kingdom they might find their position extremely difficult were they pressed for an inquiry into matters which are properly the exclusive responsibility of the Government of this country.
At any rate, whatever may be the inconsistencies of the Opposition's attitude in the past, we are having a debate on what appear to me to be much more realistic grounds. There is, or was, no reference in the Amendment to an inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the possibility of an inquiry, but it seems to me that if the Amendment is taken as being the substance of the Opposition's case, then for some reason the Opposition have thrown away caution and come to the conclusion—presumably based on new information not available in April—that there is an irrefutable case for the reduction of the period of two years by several months. I think that we should know—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale will tell us—what is that new information.
I should have thought the exact opposite was the case; that the onus is on the Government to prove that there is a case for having a two-year period. Surely we do not start with the assumption that we ought to have conscription? We should start with the assumption that conscription must be justified and its length established.
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman and I are not likely to see eye to eye on that. I believe that the Minister of Defence has put up an irrefutable case, and may I say that if there are any doubts in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, I have no doubt that they will be answered by the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour?
What the Opposition were doing six months ago was to ask for an inquiry, which to some of us might suggest that at least there was a doubt in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite about whether the period could be reduced.
I am not sure which Motion the hon. Member is referring to, but I can recall one Motion, moved not so very long ago from this side of the House, in which we asked for an inquiry with a view to a reduction in the period of National Service.
I have no doubt that that was the purpose of the inquiry and I grant that, but in fact it was thought on 28th April that an inquiry was necessary. Now it is thought—except in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—that an inquiry is not necessary and that there should be an immediate cut in the term of National Service. That is the only point I am making.
It is obvious that the Government are not prepared to accede to our demand for an inquiry and in order to force the Government to face up to the reorganisation required, we are saying that there ought to be a cut in the period of service.
The Opposition have in fact come to the conclusion that without an inquiry there should be a cut.
It seems to me that if we are not convinced of the wisdom of cutting the period of National Service now, we should make a full examination of the means by which that period can possibly be cut at the present time. There seem to me to be five of those means. The first is the more efficient employment of National Service men; the second, the attraction of more Regulars to the Forces; the third, the abandonment of any hope of a strategic reserve; the fourth, a change in the international situation, and, lastly, a deliberate reduction in our present commitments.
The hon. Gentleman has forgotten the sixth and most important of all. One can get as many Regulars as one likes, but the important problem is to keep them once they have been obtained. That is where the Secretary of State for War has gone wrong. He has played around with the Regular engagement and has in consequence reduced many Regular units to little more than a rabble.
The hon. Gentleman has come a little late to this subject. If he had taken the trouble to examine the debates which have taken place during the last year and the Questions put to the Secretary of State for War he would realise that the Secretary of State estimated that he would get prolongation in respect of 33 per cent. He has got it only in respect of 6 per cent., and that is why we have the crisis in manpower.
To continue, I would emphasise that we must get Regulars before we can keep them, and, therefore, I think I am right in saying that one of the methods by which National Service can be reduced is by getting more Regulars.
Now, a word or two about the five methods I have mentioned. We have all heard complaints of wasted time, and not one of us would seek to deny that. Indeed, many of us have made those same complaints ourselves. The easy conclusion which follows from such complaints is that, if there were a shorter period of National Service, the Services would be compelled to avoid all waste.
I was much encouraged the other day by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Poole (Capt. Pilkington), who asked about the cutting out of waste. I hope that that matter will be pursued with all the energy that the Government can command. The difficulty, as I see it—a difficulty even in time of war—is to prevent all idle hours for National Service men or for anyone else in the forces. Even if all hours were fully occupied, it would be impossible at the present time, so long as National Service men form such a high proportion of our Armed Services, to meet our obligations if the two-year period were reduced.
I am encouraged by what my right hon. and learned Friend has said this afternoon, by what the Government have put in the White Paper and by what, I hope, they are going to do early next year in their efforts to increase the Regular content of the forces. We would probably all agree, and I think that I should even carry the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) with me in this, that this problem can be finally solved only if we succeed in getting more Regulars. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important, having got them, to keep them.
What the hon. Gentleman cannot see, and what has been put over and over again to the Secretary of State for War—it took him ten years to learn it—is that the number of Regulars who present themselves has always remained constant. The figure does not vary by 1 per cent., as the Secretary of State pointed out in his last speech. The problem, therefore, is to secure as long engagements as possible, and, having got them, to prolong them. The Secretary of State for War has done exactly the opposite.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman and I shall take up a great deal of time if we argue like this. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman should catch your eye and make his own speech in his own time.
The third possibility which I mentioned was that of abandoning the strategic reserve. I do not think that I can say very much about that except that, to my mind, it would be fatal if we went back to the position of two or three years ago, when we were stretched to our utmost limits and had no leeway at all and scarcely any troops for the defence of this country itself.
I now turn to the international situation. I cannot see that that, at the moment, gives us much hope for a reduction in the term of National Service. It seems to me a sensible view to take that as atomic war becomes less likely, because all the great Powers possess large stocks of atomic weapons, a limited war is likely to become more possible, and therefore the need for National Service men is increased. How, if we decrease the period of National Service, can we fulfil our commitments in Europe, in the Middle and Far East, in Africa and, indeed, all over the world?
The only remaining solution is deliberately to reduce our commitments throughout the world. We could certainly do that tomorrow, but we could not do it without reducing our influence, and we could not withdraw from the strategic strong points of the world without, at the same time, ceasing to be a world Power.
Any of us who has visited the United States of America, either recently or some time ago, must have been impressed by the extent and weight of British influence in the affairs of the world as seen through American eyes. I am one of those who think—and I am sure that there are many similarly-minded people in this House—that the bond between two of the world's great Powers is the most important reality of today. I am quite certain that if we decided to reduce the period of National Service we should seriously jeopardise that alliance. And whether it was jeopardised or not, it would, I suggest, no longer be an alliance of equals. It would be extremely dangerous for us to run that risk at the present time.
Finally, it seems to me that in the cold war we have already had to face and bear a great many strains and burdens. and that we are going to have to continue to bear them. Very often we shall be tempted to ask whether it is worth the price that we are asked to pay. I suggest that it is extremely important in this matter to try to keep a sense of proportion. However frustrating this continuance of National Service must be at the present time to the individual, to the family, to industry and to our economy—and, goodness knows, I realise how frustrating it must be because we have all heard about it and seen it for ourselves—I suggest that it is a small price to pay for the attainment of objectives which are common to us all.
The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) always makes a contribution worth listening to, even when we disagree with his conclusions. I was surprised that he should feel that to alter and reduce the period of National Service might endanger our alliance with America and with our other friends, particularly since our other friends do not have conscription for as long a period as we do.
If we scoured the British Commonwealth we should not find any other boys who are required to bear the military burden and to make the personal sacrifice which our young people are called upon to make. My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) informs me that his grandson was called up in Brisbane, Australia, and will serve for a period of only three months. Much nonsense is talked of the equality of sacrifice amongst the Allies, but British youth is called upon to bear a heavier burden than the youth of any other country in the world at the present time.
I do not like interfering in this private party, but I will continue.
I rose because I feel that the nation has no right simply to accept conscription as necessary, just because it is the easiest, the cheapest and the laziest way of solving our present military difficulty. It is much cheaper than doing the right thing, which is to get a sufficiently-manned Regular Army. The House should consider the fact that we have now had sixteen years of conscription, and its effect upon the national character is beginning to reveal itself. We cannot expect a major social change of this sort to be brought about without it having an effect upon our way of life.
I want to examine some of the effects which I trace to conscription, but before doing so I would make the point that middle-aged and elderly people have no right to expect youths of under 21 to carry a major burden to ease their problems. We are too fond of shuffling on to youth the responsibility for the mistakes of middle-age and old age, as it is reflected in positions of responsibility. After sixteen years of conscription—ten of which have been years of peace—we may well ask whether there are any ways in which its effect is being revealed upon the community.
As far as I can understand it, one of the major complaints of the conscripts is that they waste the greater part of their time; that they learn to look busy when they are doing nothing. It is very amusing, but it is a very serious thing when it is reflected in the national character, as it is later. The very language of these islands is changing. The word "fiddle" is known and accepted in all parts of the islands after sixteen years of conscription.
If people can get away with doing less than they should be doing they think that they are very smart and clever. No hon. or right hon. Gentleman can deny that this spirit has grown in recent years within these island shores of ours. I trace it to the fact that we are taking our young people, at the age of 18—in the days of their early enthusiasm—making them break their associations with youth clubs, churches and social organisations at home; making them anonymous amongst a crowd wearing the same uniform; removing them from the restraints of home, and teaching them that as long as they look as if they are doing something and keep quiet they are satisfying the military machine.
As the "Manchester Guardian" says this morning, when military establishments are visited by generals, if those generals are received by a smart guard, with a smart salute; if they see plenty of whitewash and polish about the place, and everything is clean, they are satisfied that it is a good place—especially if they also have a good time in the mess. I am now paraphrasing the editorial in this morning's "Manchester Guardian." We all know that time is wasted and, therefore, that there is an undermining of the character of the young people. This is a serious national problem, about which old people have no right to shrug their shoulders.
Not one hon. Member in this House had to serve under peace-time conscription in his day, and yet we calmly shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, it is necessary for the defence of the island." The strange thing is that our commitments have never been so small from the beginning of British history, with the possible exception of the "press gang" period. To my mind conscription is merely a refinement of the press gang. With the possible exception of that period, throughout our history we have managed to meet our world commitments and defend these islands without taking away the freedom of British youth to decide where or if it wanted to volunteer to serve. Today, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) indicated, with far fewer troops and with fewer commit- ments we saddle youth with this burden, which it is so easy for us to push on to it, regardless of the influence which it is bound to have.
There is another matter to which I want to draw the attention of the House. The Home Office has published figures revealing an increase in the amount of drunkenness among young people under the age of 21. I do not care whether or not people share my views upon the question of drink; nobody can fail to be disturbed by that trend.
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should think that that answers this problem. Does he believe that when a man takes off his uniform after having worn it for two years he takes off at the same time all the habits he has learned during those two years? Does he think that they have no effect in after years? Does not he think that the restlessness caused by the call-up has any effect upon youth?
I regard the defence of the British character as being of equal importance to the defence of these islands, and conscription is revealing itself to be a grave danger to that character. I am not alone in holding this opinion. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will read the opinion of responsible church and youth leaders they will find that I am in harmony with what almost all these distinguished people have been saying.
Within the last few years we have noticed a trend for people to be more indifferent to social problems. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that there has grown up a neutrality upon moral issues. It is difficult to stir up people; it is difficult to get a meeting upon issues which would have set our fathers on fire. Hon. Gentlemen keep grinning and smiling as if this were not of some importance, but it is a serious matter, for this House is the custodian of the well-being of these islands.
I trace this moral neutrality on the part of so many people to the fact that, unlike our fathers, who had developed their own sturdy initiative, we are taking young people at a critical age in their lives and teaching them to obey rather than to think. For two years, their business is to do what they are told. We talk about initiative in the Armed Forces, but if they show any initiative, they get fourteen days. It is not initiative, but obedience, which is the important thing to a military character. "Always obey anyone who has a pip more than you have," we are told, "and you will get on all right." That is the philosophy which underlies this system, and I say that it may well be damaging the fibre of the national character, whereas the sturdy independence for which our fathers were known, without, be it acknowledged, the conscription of all the youth of these islands, earned for us that recognition abroad of which we are all' so proud.
Ere I resume my seat, I want to acknowledge that we all have a responsibility here for the defence of these islands. It is said by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides that if we end conscription our defence fails and falls to the ground. It so happens, as the House will know from previous occasions when I have had the honour of addressing it, that I believe that conscription is morally wrong. It is a denial of liberty to one section of the community imposed by another section which will never have to give up that liberty itself. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman seems to be suffering from something.
I am talking about peacetime. I think that war is entirely different, but we are not at war, and all hon. Members on the other side of the House, and indeed my hon. and right hon. Friends here, take the view that things are quieter now. Who believes that there is any danger of a major war in the next ten years? There is no one in this House who believes in the danger of a major nuclear war in the next ten years. "There ain't gonna be no war," said the Foreign Secretary, in terms hardly worthy of his office, if I may speak as a schoolmaster for a moment.
Bearing that in mind, and accepting the cold military considerations, there are generals and high officers in the Air Force and in the Navy who say that they do not want conscripts. An unwilling servant does not make the best sailor, soldier or airman, and the majority of these conscripts have one idea in their minds from the minute they go in—and that is to get out. We all know that that is perfectly true.
Therefore, we ought to ask, "How did we get our soldiers before? How did we have our Armed Forces without conscription, and will it work now?" It was unemployment before the war. [Interruption.] If the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) does not accept that, I hope he will have a chance to advance his point of view, although I am not canvassing in his favour.
I believe that it was unemployment which drove many of my own compatriots, who would be ready enough in time of war, but who went in time of peace into the Regular Forces. That compulsion has gone. We are now competing with high earnings, though not high wages, in the field of industry, and because we are faced with high earnings, we are making the youth of the country, who are unable to hit back at us, bear the burden of conscription.
The Armed Forces of the Crown ought to be placed in the same position as the great industries of the nation, which have to compete for its manpower. We should give youth the chance to decide whether it wants to go into the Armed Forces or into industry for a career.
I feel that we, who have the privilege of being Members of this House, have a moral responsibility not to accept conscription with a shrug of the shoulders and complacently to believe that it is here to stay in our lifetime. If it is, we shall be the generation which altered the British way of life, and we should not be thanked for it by history.
I think the whole House always believes in the sincerity of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). My criticism of his speech, however. would be this. He began by telling us that he did not want we older people to impose too many commitments or place too much pressure on the young, yet he himself criticised them and put down their present bad manners—to try, in one expression, to cover what he said—to their service in the Armed Forces. I must frankly say that if ever I have noticed it, I have not noticed it in people who, in particular, have served in the Armed Forces. I think it is due to something else. Both the hon. Gentleman and I are older, and I can remember people older than myself thinking the same way about us when we were young.
It may be so, but if there is any failure in good manners on the part of the rising generation, I certainly do not think it is due to service in the Armed Forces. On the contrary, I have known many cases in which young men have been considerably improved by their service by the very fact that they have had a little discipline in a good unit, and have returned home far better citizens than they were before their service. My experience is perhaps somewhat different from that of the hon. Gentleman.
I was much interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), because he quoted with great vigour Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in so far as the latter had advocated that the size of divisions should be reduced; and there was no stauncher supporter of the Field Marshal than the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time, when that same Field Marshal advised us, as he did in a recent speech to the United Service Institution, that the length or period of the call-up should remain at two years, he was thrown on one side.
In my view, the most important point in the White Paper is its opening remarks to the effect that we are proposing to reduce the numbers of the Armed Forces. I believe that in a nuclear age that is a very proper advance, but I should have thought that if a reduction is made it would underline the need for a longer period of service—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—to keep the period of service as it is, which is what I mean. The argument between the two sides of the House seems to be whether there should be short individual terms of service or whether there should be a general reduction in numbers.
I compliment my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence on his White Paper and I would draw attention to what I think was the most important statement he made in his speech. He said decisively that it was the object of all of us in this House to abolish conscription as soon as possible. I stress that point. Our defences could be improved by the comparatively rapid abolition of conscription.
Let me go through some of the points which affect this argument. The first is in relation to reserves. When we last debated defence we took an all-important step in this House; we plumped for atomic preparation. That obviated the necessity for the type of reserves which we built up with National Service. We shall need an entirely new type of reserves to cope with an atomic age, so in this respect the necessity for National Service can to some extent be written off.
There is the far more important need arising from our international obligations, such as those under N.A.T.O. Surely the great decision which was taken last year must entail changes in the whole concept of N.A.T.O. We want small forces in a high state of readiness, but vastly expensive. Let nobody think that if we pin our faith to atomic weapons they will be cheaper for the taxpayer. They certainly will not. They will be vastly more expensive. I have a feeling that the leaders of N.A.T.O. are preparing not only for an atomic war but for conventional war at the same time. One great nation, Russia, is certainly doing that. I think it will be put that Russia is the only nation which is preparing for both kinds of warfare.
It would be the greatest folly and foolishness if we were to be tempted to follow her example. Possibly Russia is getting tired of the cold war, but she could gain no greater victory if the N.A.T.O. countries tried to compete with her in counting heads. In that way lies disaster. I cannot help feeling doubt about the need for the great masses of men in Europe which the N.A.T.O. leaders tell us are necessary, but perhaps I am being controversial about technical matters.
It is an amiable characteristic of the British way of life that we do not like giving up traditional methods. In the Navy we hated giving up the battleship, which was the most beautiful instrument of destruction ever built. The soldier did not like giving up his horse if he was a cavalry man. Even the Labour Party may have to give up the idea of nationalisation. That amiable characteristic of the British is, I cannot help feeling, being reflected in the attitude of N.A.T.O. at the present time.
In our great bid for peace we shall underline the fact that we are determined to use thermo-nuclear methods, if necessary. I believe we could underline it by reducing as soon as possible our commitments under National Service. I cannot believe that it is not now possible to make considerable reductions in manpower in National Service. If we pin our faith to the thermo-nuclear deterrent we have undoubtedly to spend just as much as we have ever spent, and possibly more if we are to be safe. The one economy we can make is in manpower. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I think I carry the whole House with me when I say that our object, expressed in one way or another, is to try to get back to full reliance on Regular Services to build up the Army, Navy and Air Force into happy, contented and efficient Regular Services. It is paradoxical that we cannot do away with National Service until we have adequate Regular Services, but that neither can we get adequate Regular Services until we have done away with National Service.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, brought out in his speech the dislike that is felt for the Services. I do not believe what he said, but many people do. National Service is bringing the Regular forces into contempt and suspicion. That is one of the great reasons why people are not prepared in peace-time to spend their lives in the Services. In war-time we shall always get people to join, but if the Services are held to some extent in the contempt which the hon. Member obviously holds them we cannot expect to get our full quota of men ready and willing to spend their lives in the Services.
This situation places a great obligation on the Government and on the House to improve the terms of service in the Regular forces both as to pay and pension, and to bring them to an exact relativity with the conditions of people who work in industry. We should, in addition, compensate the Regular Service men for the disturbance in their lives. That is absolutely essential. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, that that is the most expensive way of doing it, but that in a nuclear age and in the long run it would be far the most economical.
The real problem discussed in the debate is not to decide how to shorten National Service and produce a system which will not worry the country unduly, but how eventually to abolish it. The White Paper proposes what seems to be far and away the best method of setting about it. It gives the Minister of Defence two and a half years in which to decide the next step. In two and a half years he must make a change either for the worse or for the better. The Government must make it perfectly plain that their object is to abolish conscription as soon as they can—and I would be the last to say that it could be abolished now—and since I believe that the White Paper is the right way to go about it I shall support the Government with every confidence.
The speech which we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) is one of the most amazing to which I have listened in the last ten years. He was extremely illogical. He asked—and I fully support him in his request—for a rapid abolition of conscription, but did not seem to realise that the White Paper accepts, and is asking the House to depend upon, the principle of conscription.
Over a certain period it reduces the numbers, but at present it merely delays the calling up of the men. It still imposes a two-year conscription period.
I entirely endorse what the hon. and gallant Member said about the present system of National Service bringing the Regular Army into sheer contempt. If that is true—and I shall probably submit some examples to prove it—I should have thought that the best thing to do was to reduce the period of the National Service man's experience of that contempt.
This debate marks a difference in the attitude towards conscription. I am pleased to note that, particularly as the hon. and gallant Member has asked the Government to say that they will abolish conscription at the earliest possible moment. Some of us on this side have signed a Motion in which we have said that the period of service should be reduced by twelve months as a first step to total abolition. The overwhelming mass of our people want abolition.
Nine years ago I moved an Amendment to the King's Speech. It was in that Gracious Speech that compulsory National Service was first brought to the notice of the House as a peace-time measure. The House then rejected my view. I was called a pacifist and a starry-eyed idealist, a person who was refusing to face facts. I should like to quote one sentence from what I then said:
No battleship could stand a "near miss" from an atomic bomb, and no plane could last in a sky filled with atomic anti-aircraft shells. No, the future war—and we pray that it will never come—will be won or lost in the laboratories of the country.
Then I quoted from an article written in "Reynolds' News" by Mr. Brailsford, in which he said:
Modern warfare is a struggle of wits between scientists, technicians and highly-trained mechanised troops. Numbers and massed formations are useless against either rockets or atom bombs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1946: Vol. 430, c. 595.]
That was nine years ago. Now I read in the White Paper that
… in a nuclear age the conception of reserve forces waiting to take part in large-scale conventional war is out of date.
What happened in the nine years? If the advice of many of my hon. Friends on this side had been accepted by the previous Government and by those which followed, we should have been able to prevent the waste of the precious energies of the nation. We should have made a vast contribution to our economic position, and we should not have had last week's Budget. We could have reduced enormously Government expenditure but, more important, we could have used the energy of the nation in a very constructive effort.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) and I recently had an opportunity to see Service camps both at home and in Germany. We spoke to many hundreds of men, individually and in groups, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that we were able to gain a general impression of some of those considerations in the minds of both National Service men and Regulars which are contributing to the dilemma in which they, and we, find ourselves today. If the Government are interested in a Regular Army, I tell them that there are conditions in some of the camps at home —leaving out, for the moment, those abroad—so appalling that they do nothing but give National Service men an intense hatred of Army life.
One camp which has been very much in the news is that at Catterick, in Yorkshire. The military authorities there received us courteously, but we found that on some occasions they were not anxious to bring us into close contact with the men. They were always very pleased to show us canteens that were empty, but we preferred to see where the men were, what they were doing, how they were living, and what they were thinking. The Secretary of State for War interrupted a little earlier in the debate on the subject of drunkenness. I am pleased, of course, to have noted many improvements in the Army, but I know that the men just cannot afford to drink any more than they do at present. If the right hon. Gentleman had gone into the Salvation Army canteen in Catterick on a Tuesday—two days before pay day—he would have seen men so short of money that they were returning their empty mineral-water bottles to get the refund, while the N.A.A.F.I. canteen was practically empty. From that he will understand that pay is a very important factor in connection with the drink issue.
I do not believe that pay is the overriding and most important of the issues. I had a letter from a man of 80 years of age who was born in my constituency. He wrote of Catterick as "the cold hell hole with the lid off, 1914–18." Apparently he had been in Catterick Camp during the 1914–18 war. He is now living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He said:
I was there during 1916–17. The winter was the bitterest for 20 years. The conditions
caused more than one man to commit suicide. I dread to think what the boys will be like this winter.
When I went into those huts, which are still there, with the cold stone floors and brickwalls, with leaking roofs and no toilet facilities within the huts, I realised how horrible that must be for the men. I asked for certain information and I received a letter from a corporal, a National Service man. He told me that some of the conditions there were quite unbearable. The men are expected to be clean, yet in his section it was not possible even to flush the lavatories. I went there to find out, and I found that it was absolutely true. In a hut housing more than 20 men there was not a lavatory in order. I went to each one, and apparently they had been in that condition for some time.
The conditions in some of the cookhouses are a positive disgrace. The Secretary of State for War knows this, as I understand that he has been around this camp. It is the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South to submit to the Secretary of State for War more details of these causes for severe complaint. I had a letter from another corporal. This man wrote to me of a cookhouse which I later inspected and, therefore, I could verify what he said. There were no means of draining water from the floor.
This is one of the old cookhouses which were built during the First World War. They are most antiquated and out-of-date. The men have to queue with their knives, forks, mugs and plates, and dip them into various pails of water heated by steam. Just imagine what an absurd arrangement that is, and how the men feel about it.
This corporal is a Regular soldier and he will be demobilised on 14th November. He writes to tell me why he would never consent to sign on again. He says there are five cooks and two N.C.O.s in charge, and they have over 500 men to cook for. It is impossible to keep the cookhouse clean, and it is impossible to cook a decent meal in such conditions. He says that they tend to develop a "don't care" attitude, and adds:
In fact I myself have come into the cookhouse first thing in the morning and have seen as many as five cats chewing at the meat.
I shall be very pleased to give more details about this matter to the Secretary of State for War. This man says that he has seen chops all over the floor. The
hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Glover) may smile about it, but there are 19,000 men at Catterick and the overwhelming majority of them, especially the National Service men, who are confined to barracks for the first month of their service, do not smile about it. It is a disgrace to think that this House should permit these conditions to exist. That is one of the reasons why we shall always find it difficult to get men to join the Regular Army.
I have seen Catterick and I have never said other than that it was unsatisfactory. What the hon. Gentleman has not mentioned is that the accommodation that he is describing comprises one-third of the total amount. It is regrettable. But he has not mentioned that building is going on to get the men out of that very unsatisfactory one-third, and it is going on quite fast.
I am very pleased that some rebuilding is going on. Nevertheless, the men write to me and keep complaining of the long time that they have been promised this better accommodation. I am not saying that the whole of the accommodation is as bad as this, but I do say that in many of the camps the arrangements are not at all satisfactory.
Then, having got our National Service man, we post him as far away from home as possible. Is this a general principle? I have met men from Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh who were stationed in Devonshire, and men from the south of England who have been posted to Catterick. These men get only 4s. a day. They cannot have a 48-hour leave. Why should they not be allowed to have a 48-hour leave occasionally? Over and over again we get this answer from the men, "No, if you paid us more money we would not volunteer."
There is an outmoded discipline which is a lot of absolute and utter nonsense. The leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" this morning is quite correct on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South and I have seen a brigadier demonstrating how efficient the camp can be. Everything is bright and shiny and, therefore, he feels that all is well. But we find that many men in the camp are very unhappy. When we ask them what the trouble is, we find that a certain lieutenant-colonel has said, "If you are one minute late you will be on a charge," and it means 14-days C.B. I will concede that another officer may be a little more lenient, but my hon. Friend and I found a case in which a number of men had been given 14-days C.B. because they were late returning to camp after going to the town to celebrate with a National Service man who had become a father.
As I say, there are other officers who have a different attitude. One has said, "I feel that we are making criminals of people to insist upon a rigid form of discipline." Why cannot these things be inquired into? I have no doubt that if the Government had conceded an independent inquiry or an inquiry on which both sides of the House could have been represented, they would have found that the overwhelming mass of the men are totally dissatisfied.
We have examined the figures to ascertain how long it takes to train men. The majority of the men will say that they do nothing useful after the first six months. Some are doing nothing useful beyond the first three months. It is not that they are all doing domestic work. They are forced to brush and blanco in order to try to keep themselves busy. In Germany it is even worse. There is a tyranny of boredom due to the circumstances and the fact that the men have not enough money.
There are many other points I could make, but other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate and I will, therefore, conclude. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are nothing short of hypocritical when they talk about setting people free. If they want to set people free they ought to do something to set the youth of the nation free so that their careers are not interrupted to this extent and so that they can continue in their jobs, working in a constructive manner and helping to lift up the nation's economic fortunes. The present service is a waste of time and of manpower and this White Paper on Defence is nothing but a lot of nosense.
When he opened the debate my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said the White Paper was a surrender to the generals. I do not know to whom the Government surrendered, but I know this: these Service men, the non-commissioned officers, the captains and the majors, are, in the main, strongly opposed to the present organisation. It was only with the high-ranking military officers, those with the special red caps, that my hon. Friend and I found disagreement—and they were certainly in disagreement, and we had many arguments about it.
I found only one high-ranking general who admitted to me that discipline could be relaxed in the interests of a better Army and who told me that, unlike some officers, he would make his friends not sideways in his own rank but up and down the ranks of the Army. I daresay that he is a popular high-ranking officer. There is far too much snobbery and too little understanding of the position of those occupying the lower ranks. Until we have solved those problems we shall not solve the problem of the Regular Army. It is time we ceased to impose this unfair burden on the youth of the country.
May I offer my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), who made a maiden speech earlier in the debate? I feel sure that other hon. Members who heard him will agree with me that we look forward to hearing him again.
I do not have the honour and pleasure of knowing the hon. Member for Lady-wood (Mr. Yates). I wonder whether he is an ex-Service man. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There are a good many non-ex-Service men such as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), whose views I respect very much, but he is a man of sensibility who, deeply as he feels his words, weighs them carefully. The hon. Member for Lady-wood gave me the impression that his inquiry would have been much more valuable if he had had any experience of the Army himself.
That is a fine family record which, I am sure, is emulated by many.
I think the hon. Member did much harm to the Armed Forces of the Crown, and I suspect that that is what he meant to do. He set out to find every dirty lavatory he could—and there are many in the Army. There are many in civil life, too. Is it not remarkable? There are many in ordinary houses.
I did not say that the right hon. Gentleman did. I only said that he knew of this. However, I promised to be brief, and I must not be diverted.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, said that the burden was unfairly divided between the old and the young. I do not think that that is so. The older people have borne their share in earlier generations and earlier times. Not one of we older men wants to send men to war to be killed. We did our bit, most of us, in our time. For my part, I would rather my son, or my grandson who is now growing up, did two years' service under compulsion than that we ran into another war and he had to do six years' fighting. To maintain our Armed Forces at a proper level now may be a way of ensuring that we shall not have another war. that seems to me to be one way of looking at it.
It seems to me, from the White Paper, and after listening to the debate, that, as so very often, the House has been most shrewd. It has discerned that the White Paper is an intermediate document, filling a gap. I may be wrong about that and I do not imagine that the Government are disposed to tell us today, otherwise they would have told us already. But it seems to me that they must be filling a gap in point of time because the proposals which they are now putting before the House and the country would be nonsense in two or three years' time. If they continued for two or three years and then nothing else followed, we should be calling up just as many men in the third or fourth year as we are calling up now.
I am quite sure that the Government are wise and sensible men and are well advised, and I therefore do not believe that they are presenting us with something which will be nonsense in two or three years' time. It is obvious that they are preparing the way for something else. The question which we must put is: what is that?
This is a most valuable debate and I think that the Opposition do their proper duty in bringing this matter forward and in giving it the importance which attaches to a full day's debate. In so far as hon. Members opposite take advantage of the occasion to try to smear the Army, they render a bad service to the country; but in so far as they use the occasion to compel the Government to justify the continuance of two years' National Service, and to make the whole nation aware of what National Service means. then the debate is abundantly justified.
National Service is an interruption of young life. It takes men away from their families, their education and their jobs, and checks their prospects and their careers. It should not be tolerated or prolonged for a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. It is in the Government's mind to bring it to an end as soon as they possibly can and if, as I suspect, this White Paper is an interim arrangement, I am very glad.
But let us not exaggerate the pros and cons of National Service. I meet a great many young men, and very fine young men they are. They have not been tainted, as apparently have some who met the hon. Member for Ladywood at Catterick. The hon. Member makes me very cross. The great majority of them are decent, honest, hard-working boys who are enjoying their Army service and are anxious to get back to civil life. Any suggestions that they are all tainted or losing their morality or their judgment because of their service seems to me to be utmost nonsense. It is certainly not my experience, and I have seen as many ex-Service men as most people.
In my opinion, two years' service for the time being is inevitable. The Minister has made out a case and I have not the slightest hesitation in supporting him on it. It would clearly be exceedingly wasteful to continue with the present system and to let the present men go out at eighteen months. That would be wasting the most valuable six months of their time and, with our burdens all over the world, it seems to me that that cannot be afforded.
I do not believe that the country or the House has been given enough information to enable us to judge about this matter. I listened to the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and thought he made a good, classic case against an inquiry. He said that this is a matter for which the Government must take responsibility, not a Select Committee or some other body of inquiry. I think that is true, but nevertheless, there is a great deal the Government could do to inform sensible people of some of the facts which we cannot know. I suppose that if Members of Parliament set about putting down one Question after another for weeks at a time we might get the sort of information we ought to have. Between now and the end of the next two or three years we want to know what it really would cost if we could succeed in getting enough Regulars by raising their wages very considerably, giving them the priorities they should have in housing, and so on, and a guarantee of a job when they leave the Service. Most of them leave at an early age. I believe that that would not be a more expensive way of providing the Forces we need.
When we consider that from six months to a year—half the whole of the militia man's service—is spent in learning the elements of his job—and then he does not know it so well as a professional—it must clearly be wasteful to have men in for two years; they ought to be in for seven and twelve years. I should like to know what it would cost to make the Service so attractive that they would come in for a longer period.
There are in this country 10 million old soldiers, sailors and airmen. The great majority of them—the overwhelming majority—look back on their Service with pleasure, a little wistfully, especially the older ones. They have a patriotic outlook and tend to encourage the good name of the Armed Forces and be proud of the regiment, the ship, or the unit in which they served. Many of them are very sensible chaps and, if they knew more about the facts, they might be more convinced in supporting the policy of the moment and in helping to determine the public opinion that will make the policy of the future. I do not demand an inquiry of the formal kind, but I ask the Government to consider whether a great many more facts could be given—not facts which expose our weakness to the enemy or anything of that kind, but economic facts as to the burdens the country bears now and would bear were we to make the remuneration in the Armed Forces really comparable with what it is in business for the manual worker, for N.C.O.s, young officers, middle range and senior officers as well.
Finally, I should like to thank the Government for having ameliorated the conditions of call-up for agricultural workers. The concessions made recently will strike a great many farmers and farm workers as fair and sensible. Anyone who knows remote parts of the country as I do knows of the conditions where one farm may be five or ten miles from the next and where either there is no housing, all the workers live in the farm, or there is only one house. There is a special case there because when a man is called up he is absolutely irreplaceable. It may be hard to replace people in other districts, but in remote districts they are absolutely irreplaceable. Yet farming must go on even from the point of view of defence.
Will the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Defence consider whether it is possible to allow those who work in agriculture and rural industry generally to do their full military service, but to do it locally? There is a very good reason for that. I am not asking for a special bonus to people in that particular work, nor trying to get a favour for one constituent at the expense of another. The reason is that it is very important that people who have a stake in the land, or live on the land, should stay on the land.
There are times of the year when to be able to go in and lend a hand on the family farm on a Saturday night or over Sunday is a most useful service. It provides a most valuable increment to the man's income and a way of keeping his love of the land alive. Moreover, we have been told that the new way of war, the atomic way, will lead to great changes in home defence. We shall not rely on old forms, but have mobile semi-professional or professional units. I ask why the rural district men should not do their full service—when they are not eligible to be deferred—in some service of that kind, especially bearing in mind that, should war come, they would be the first to be kept on the land and not allowed to go to their units.
I repeat once more the hope that the Government—obviously not today, but at some time during the following months —may give us very much more information about this matter so that we may help to form a non-party, patriotic public opinion to sustain such form of military service as is necessary for the defence and safety of our country.
The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) complained that in his view there are not sufficient facts before us to judge this question. If the Government had conceded our earlier request for an inquiry the hon. Member would not have needed to make that complaint.
One thing at least is clear from the first paragraph of the White Paper, which says that the size of the Armed Forces is to be reduced by a reduction of the National Service content. The Government propose to do that by the method of deferring call-up. That will have the effect of reducing by 20,000 in the next six months and 100,000 in the next two and a half years. A reduction of call-up by six months would have the effect of reducing by 70,000 and, of course, a reduction of three months would mean reducing by 35,000 and the time at which that took place would be very much within the discretion of the Government.
If one were to say, "Every man who comes into the forces the day after tomorrow will serve for eighteen months" we would feel no effect until eighteen months from now; the Government could have a considerable range of period for introducing the proposal according to what seemed most convenient. I press these points to show that the Government admit that they can and ought to do with fewer National Service men in the forces.
If we look first at the pure question of numbers of National Service men in the forces we find that on that ground there is no justification for opposing a reduction in the period of National Service. Arguments may be advanced on other grounds, but on that ground it is quite clear in face of the Government White Paper that we cannot say it is impossible to reduce the numbers. The whole structure of argument set up by the Secretary of State for War in March when, despite the fact that the ending of the Egyptian commitment freed 65,000 men, he still argued that it was not possible on mere numbers to think of reducing the National Service content of the Armed Forces, is thrown overboard by the Government themselves. I am well aware that it is not purely a question of numbers, but I emphasise the point because the arguments we have heard have been based solely on that premise. If one is to support our Amendment, it is not necessary to show that there are further commitments that ought to be cut beyond what are cut already, because if we are thinking of mere numbers there is no ground for preferring what the Government propose to what is proposed by this side of the House.
Let us look, then, at the second argument that is advanced against cutting the period of National Service. It is argued that it is in the last six months of men's service that the real value is derived from them and that that is when they are experienced soldiers. Lovers of history will be reminded that when the Ten Hours Act in factories was opposed, it was argued by the famous economist Nassau Senior that it was in the last half hour that all the profits were made. It is worth while paying attention to this argument because the Minister of Defence himself laid great stress on it. He was very much of the view that the Services would be throwing away valuable time which was spent in training if the National Service men were kept only for eighteen or even, I suppose, twenty-one months.
There are five points I want to mention very briefly about this argument. First, it is an argument of comparatively recent creation. From 1947 to 1950, it was accepted that the men could be trained to give sufficient service as trained soldiers along with the Regular component of the Army for us to be able to discharge our commitments at that time, which were greater than those we have at present. It was not argued by competent military advisers that it was necessary on that ground to increase the period of training. Now that the period of service has been increased, first owing to the Korean emergency, this argument about training has been produced, now that the argument of numbers no longer holds good, to find fresh reason for avoiding the plain case for cutting the period of call-up.
Secondly, if it is said that the last six months is so important, why is it that better and fuller use is not made of it? Hon. Members may have studied the Report of the King George Jubilee Trust on some of the problems facing our young people. One of the many interesting things that the Report says is this:
A recent survey within the Army itself states that the greatest enemy of healthy attitude towards National Service is boredom, wasted time and idleness. Wasted time is alleged to occur chiefly during the last six months.
That is very often quite true. The period of training is strenuous and vigorous, but most of the men, whatever they feel about it, do go in prepared to make a go of it if they are given any reasonable encouragement, yet it is in the last six months, which, we are told, is so important, that so much wasted time occurs.
My third observation on this argument is that with the recent decline in our commitments, it is, in general, the more distant commitments that have declined. It was argued, and there was some force in the argument, that since we had to make use of men in areas at great distances from this country, there would be a real problem if the men were kept in the forces for only eighteen months. But when we have had recently a reduction of commitments—and commitments rather those further from this country than those near at home—that argument has much less validity.
The fourth comment I would make about this contention of the special value of the last six months and the whole line advanced by the Minister of Defence would be this. If that contention is valid now, it has always been valid in the past and it always will be valid in the future. It was an argument that if there was to be National Service, a period of two years was needed to make it worth while. If that is the Government's present view, why have they on several occasions, not very long ago, said over and over again, both Front benchers and back benchers, that they are anxious to reduce the period of National Service as soon as it can be done? Now it is being contended that it is a necessary condition of useful National Service that a man must serve for two years. If that argument is valid now, some future Minister of Defence could make exactly the same speech when in two-and-a-half years' time, as was rightly pointed out by one hon. Member opposite, this policy ceases to have effect and the Government have to think of what they will do next.
My last observation on this argument is that it is quite true that an Army needs an experienced element of long experience, both for its tradesmen and for its N.C.O.s, but it is no good trying to rely to any great extent on the National Service element to get that experienced part of the Army. It must be obtained by encouraging and maintaining a flow of Regular recruits into the Army and, as my hon. Friend for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has so often pointed out, encouraging them, once they are in, to stay in for long periods. The Government's own White Paper emphasises this in its second paragraph.
We have been told that the period of National Service cannot be cut because there is not enough Regular content in the Army. The Secretary of State for War himself produced that argument in March this year. But if there is not enough Regular content in the Army, the Government cannot proceed with this policy either, and they admit as much in paragraph 2 of the White Paper. So that is not an argument for preferring the Government's White Paper to a reduction in call-up.
It might be an argument for arguing that both policies were impossible, but the Government, I trust, are not yet reduced to a position of saying, "We have produced a policy and if an alternative is put up our reply will be that both our policy and the alternative are equally impossible." We must suppose that the Government believe that they can make a useful contribution towards the problem of getting a bigger non-service Regular content into the Army. If they think that that can be done, it destroys the objection to cutting the period of National Service.
Certain social and political objections can be made against the way that the Government have endeavoured to deal with the excess of National Service men in the Armed Forces. The political objection is that the real issue is postponed. By going on and on. raising the age of call-up half year after half year until finally the age of call-up reaches the maximum age under which men can be legally called up for National Service, the Government will merely have the problem piled up on them. In the first six months in which the Government stop pushing up the age of call-up a bit more, they merely have to face the problem then and the problem which they previously postponed when adopting the device of deferment of call-up.
It has been apparent from the speech of the Minister of Defence that when that situation arises, he really has no idea what to do. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale said he was sure it must be all right, because the Government would never have introduced a policy like this if they did not know what to do when the situation arose. It is indeed a faith which neither we on this side nor, I think, a good many more critical Members on the other side would be able to share. I believe that the faithful are sometimes asked to say, "Credo quia impossibile"—"I believe because it is impossible." We have not yet reached the position where we have to say of Governments that their policy is so incomprehensible that we are bound not to be critical of it.
Not only is there political objection, but there is social objection to the prolongation of the call-up. It will add to the amount of uncertainty which National Service already creates. The White Paper talks about the fact that the man going to a university and the man going into an apprenticeship will be able to manage all right. It even, in an outburst of optimism, suggests that he might possibly benefit from the proposal. I do not think the Government really believe that, but it is a plausible case. Let us face the plain fact. The majority of our young men do not enjoy those advantages. The majority of our young men, those not blessed with either more than average luck in the circumstances into which they were born, or more than average intelligence and skill, go into unskilled or semiskilled occupations. What about them?
I believe that the person who is luckier or more gifted than the average of his fellows will not find this too much trouble. He has probably decided by the time that he is 17 or 18 the plan of his life for the next few years. He sees a definite objective ahead of him and that with a certain amount of patience he can put up with this extra inconvenience which the Government are to impose upon him.
What of the other man, for whom life does not present such an attractive picture and for whom so definite a plan is not possible? He is given an added reason for having an aimless and drifting attitude towards life. But do not let us forget how much the country is indebted to hundreds and thousands of young men like that—men without special gifts with either brains or hands. We cannot manage without them. Does the Minister of Defence, who previously occupied a position in the Foreign Office and who has often spoken of Western defence and the need to defend our threatened values and civilisation, realise that so much depends on the valour and discipline of young lads in their early twenties, without particular gifts either in intelligence or skill, but putting all they have at the service of their country, and that if their valour and discipline fails the whole structure of Western defence and all that we talk about in foreign affairs debates would come down like a pack of cards?
It is young men like those who will suffer most from the policy that the Government have adopted. They have adopted it because of their continual inability to face an issue when it arises and because of their tendency to adopt a live-for-the-day policy and to hope that, somehow, the ugly difficulty will fade away. That is what they have done in their handling of Cyprus and the handling of this problem also. They ought to have taken earlier far more seriously the problem of getting the Regular to stay on. There have been the questions of pay, discipline, housing and education, and, at long last, today we have had a statement about education.
It was a simple and straightforward statement that could easily have been made when we had this matter before us six months ago on the Army Estimates, instead of the lamentable oration delivered on that occasion by the Under-Secretary of State for War. If it takes the Government that time to settle that comparatively simple problem, how much longer will it take them to deal with the many other complex factors that determine Regular recruitment? And so we have planted upon us a policy that is politically evasive and socially harmful, and which is the fruit of neglect and vacillation.
We always listen with great respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who was in the War Office in the former Administration. As is well known in this House—and I have said it over and over Again—I am one of those who want to see National Service abolished, and who want to see a strong, standing Army of volunteers.
I have pressed from this side of the House very strongly for no niggling increases in pay, but for a really thumping increase, not only in pay but in pensions, and in the rehabilitation of people when they leave the Services. I believe that is the only way in which we can encourage more people to join the Army as volunteers.
I am not over-optimistic about this. It is an astonishing fact that the number of volunteers prepared to join the Regular Army, whether unemployment has been rife or whether it has not, has remained practically static since 1920. Whether these methods which I have advocated in the House will result in the recruitment of sufficient Regulars in order that National Service may be abolished altogether, I do not know. At least it is worth trying, and I hope that the Government will very soon come forward with some proposal of that nature.
As one who raised originally the matter of the education of children of men serving in the forces, I am delighted at last to have heard the announcement which has been made today. I fully realise what the opposition to it has been and from which quarter it has come. It has always come from the same quarter. It has always come from the Treasury—the nigger in the woodpile—so far as the forces are concerned, and we all know the tremendous vested interests that there are in the Treasury from the Civil Service angle to see that no one else gets the same sort of parity as they do in conditions and pay. I have suffered from that throughout the whole of my military career.
We have heard a great deal about commitments. The hon. Member for Fulham has made one false statement. I am sure that he did not do so deliberately; he must have been misinformed. He said that our commitments today are less than they were at the time of Korea. That is emphatically not so. They are slightly more today than they were then. We have not reduced our commitments in Malaya as popularly supposed at all, and we have had many other commitments thrust upon us since those days.
The whole of this problem of the reduction of National Service depends on our world-wide commitments. Whatever word we use—if we dislike the word "Empire"—we have colonial responsibilities far wider than any of those countries which have been mentioned as having a shorter period of National Service than we have. Those commitments have to be fulfilled.
I want to make one remark about the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). When he quoted the French, I recollected that I was informed by a high-ranking French officer, who is also a politician, that it was his considered opinion that if France had had two years' national Service, the disaster at Dien Bien Phu would not have occurred. They were unable to send their national service men as far as that, and they had to rely entirely on their regulars; and they had not enough of them.
if the hon. Gentleman had not been so interested in what he was going to say and had listened to what I was saying, he would have realised that I said precisely that. They did not and could not send their conscripts to Indo-China because the conscripts served for only eighteen months, but if the French had had two years' service they would have been able to send conscripts to Indo-China. That is what I was told by a high-ranking French officer who may know a little more about his own country than does the hon. Gentleman.
There is the argument about the last six months of a National Service man's period in the Army. Do let us keep our feet on the ground about this. I spoke to many commanding officers in Germany when I was there, and every one of them said the same thing. First, let us realise this, that of their N.C.O.s one-third of their corporals and one-half of their lance-corporals in any given unit are National Service men. Many National Service men are used as instructors of the new intake coming into the regiment from the depot. If we take away six months of the National Service men's period of service, those battalions will simply fall. They will simply cease to be fighting units any longer. [Interruption.] It is said they have no one to fight. I think that observation comes very ill at this moment, when the Russians are pouring technicians and arms into the Middle East.
Is there anybody in the House who would say that we might not be faced with a very serious situation there in the near future? Is this the time to encourage that sort of thing by reducing our period of National Service? It is one of the most irresponsible things the Opposition have done at this juncture—to have clamoured for a reduction of National Service now. The situation in the Middle East is red hot, and if we want to encourage people to make it so, then let us reduce our National Service. The Middle East provides us with one of the most potent arguments against reducing it.
There is another point which those who have not been in the Army do not seem to understand: we cannot run a battalion like a factory. There are of necessity long periods when training is taking place, especially training at the higher level, at brigade and division level, when there is nothing to do, when one simply has got to sit and wait. There is nothing one can do with some people at times on those occasions. One cannot go round the lorry lines or the gun lines and tell the men to do something else, because they are on exercise and are learning what war is about, and we know and agree that, fortunately, nine-tenths of war is sheer boredom, although the other tenth is sheer terror. It is lucky that it is in that proportion. So there are times when men and officers cannot be asked to do anything at all but wait.
I am not saying one cannot cite examples of wasted time in the forces. There have been examples of that. We have been talking mostly about the Army today, and nobody seems to have mentioned the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force. Only a day or two ago, however, I heard of an instance of the most disgraceful waste of time in the Air Force, and I have forwarded the case to the proper quarter, and if his Lordship refuses to take any action in the matter I shall raise it in the House, as I have told him I shall.
I do not believe in raising a matter like that in the House at an early stage, because I hope that it will be put right. I disagree with the hon. Member for Lady-wood (Mr. V. Yates), whose speech will do nothing but harm to recruitment and can only have the exactly opposite effect to that which he wants. He can prevent volunteers from joining the Army, and so make conscription inevitable for an indefinite time.
I was approached in all seriousness and sincerity the other day by somebody on the other side of the House who said to me "What you have to do in the Army is to accept reduced efficiency." That is attractive, is it not? Really, the Army is not like industry, in which one may merely lose a little money. Reduced efficiency in the Army means the loss of men's lives. We pay in lives for reduced efficiency in the Army, and I hope that we shall not allow the efficiency of the British Army to be reduced in order to reduce the length of service.
I am glad that the tour abroad of the Regular Service men is only three years. I had to do eight without coming home at all. That is fine and is as it should be, but if we reduced National Service the Regular element would have to serve for a longer period abroad, five years possibly, or even six. The result of that would be a greater run out of the Regular element, which would make the continuation of National Service even more certain.
There is an enormous number of men in the pipeline. Unfortunately I have not that figure here, though I had it. I think it is 30,000. It is just about time we started to modernise our air trooping, not only to reduce the number of men in the pipeline but so that we may have "fire brigades" which could be taken out at short notice to areas of the world where trouble is likely to brew up quickly.
One or two other hon. Members, besides my hon. and gallant Friend, have mentioned air trooping and stressed the necessity of extending it. I should like to tell them that at the present time, except for unit moves, all postings and replacements for the Middle East, the Caribbean, Kenya and the Far East are done by air—all except for unit moves in Germany, where it is not worth while to do it by air.
I am very thankful to hear that, and I hope that it means that the number of people in the pipeline is or will be very considerably reduced. It should certainly relieve the shortage of men in our out stations.
In my view—and this has been said on both sides of the House—provided, and always provided, that we do not lower our guard the risk of a thermo-nuclear world war is practically negligible. That does not mean that we are not to have a far more difficult situation to face than we have now, because I am quite convinced by what I saw in Russia when I was there that Communist world domination is still the pillar of the Russians' foreign policy. The question for them is which is the shortest cut to it. There was a time when global war was considered to be the shortest cut, and that was when we were weak in Europe. Since the buildup of N.A.T.O. and the advent of the thermo-nuclear weapon, that danger has receded. If we lower our guard that danger will come again.
Always, however, there is the danger of a minor war, even a major minor war, on such a scale that the N.A.T.O. forces would have a very difficult problem in making up their mind whether or not it was large enough for the use of the thermo-nuclear weapon to prevent it from happening. It is for that sort of war, it is to deal with subversion in those Dependencies for which we are responsible, to which we are trying to bring self-government, that for a considerable time to come we shall need forces, and need to train men for them, as well as for the eventuality of a global war.
For the training of our men, especially for global war, we have our divisions in Germany, where they can practise normal training with heavy weapons, heavy armaments and all the equipment we knew in the last war. Here in England we want a big mobile reserve of men, trained in jungle warfare, trained in the use of light weapons, light artillery, light equipment, which can be transferred to any part of the globe at short notice.
I should like to see this sort of exercise carried out—two divisions flown from America, and two divisions flown from Britain, into a part of the desert of North Africa, for exercises for six weeks or so, and then flown back again. I think that would give pause to people who are thinking of making trouble in those areas.
It is for troubles of that sort we ought to be training, and I know from my own experience that with 80 per cent, or 60 per cent. of National Service men in a given unit, that unit cannot prepare and train if those National Service men are taken away from it in what are now the last six months of their training and service.
I have been talking, as others have, mainly of the Army. I want to make one constructive suggestion. In the Navy, National Service men are not relied upon to anything like the extent that they are relied upon in the Army. Almost all the men in the Navy are Regulars. I wonder whether, just as an experiment, the Minister of Defence would consider abolishing National Service in the Navy. It might be worth doing it. I believe that the Navy could probably carry on without the National Service men. It might be well worth thinking about also in connection with some elements of the Royal Air Force. Judging by what I have seen of the way in which the R.A.F. deals with part-time training, it might be as well to abolish it altogether in that connection.
As a start to the complete abolition of National Service I suggest, therefore, its abolition in the Navy and careful consideration of the question whether something should not be done about it in the R.A.F. as well. I hope and pray that we shall have an announcement very soon about pay, pensions and the re-engagement of soldiers in order that we may try to recruit a few more men into the Regular Forces. I admit that I am not optimistic about this, for the simple reason that the number who volunteer has remained apparently static since 1920, irrespective of unemployment or anything else.
Let us not have a niggling solution to this problem. It must be something really big. The difficulty of the problem is so great that the whole matter must be looked at with reason and without emotion. I find it difficult to make up my mind without the secret top-level knowledge which is at the disposal of the Cabinet and the Minister of Defence. I should like to see the secret reports that must be coming in from the Middle East before I began to suggest any reduction in the national burden. I support the Government in what they have done, but I shall continue to press for the reforms in the Services for which I have pressed in the past.
I plead with the Government that somebody should go round our training depots in Britain like an East wind and blow out what is wrong. Too many disquieting reports are coming in. These things do not occur in the good regiment. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with them. They happen in training depots. I believe that regiments, instead of sending their best men to the training depots, get rid of those whom they do not want by sending them there. That is a pernicious policy, and I hope that the Minister will do something about it.
I must express regret at the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser). I know him in the ex-Service men's community, in which he is highly respected, and it came as rather a shock to me that he should attack, by innuendo, my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates). One does not have to have served in any one of the Services to have some regard for the well-being of the people who are today serving. The hon. Member's innuendo about lack of service in the Armed Forces was an attempt to hit below the belt.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) is not in the House, I should like to inform the hon. Member that he was not making a personal attack on the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates). He was attacking what the hon. Member for Ladywood had been saying about camps.
If the impetuous hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Glover) had not been so impetuous, I was about to come to that point.
The complaint of the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale and of the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) is that these conditions have been exposed and that, having exposed them, my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood has done nothing but harm. I ask the House how harm can be done if harm is not there to be done. It is rather amusing to see the embattled forces of Toryism in the House complaining when the fruits of Toryism in the shape of out-dated barracks and insanitary camps are exposed by hon. Members in pursuance of their public duty. Instead of complaining about those who expose the evils, hon. Members opposite should be helping to get rid of those evils.
I do not think that the hon. Member could have heard what I said. I welcomed the fact that people expose these things, but I said that I thought the better way of doing it was to write a letter to the Minister and say that if something is not done the matter will be raised in the House. I said that, otherwise, it did harm to recruiting and, therefore, was apt to extend the period of National Service.
I fully accept the hon. and gallant Member's explanation, but he did say that my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood did more harm than good by exposing these things publicly. If one does not expose them publicly one stands very little chance, with the present Government, of ever having them remedied.
There is on the Order Paper an Amendment in my name and in the names of some of my hon. Friends to a Motion asking for a reduction in the period of compulsory National Service. Our Amendment asks that as a preliminary to the reduction there should be an inquiry and that the Government should submit their proposals to the House. It is apparent from the Government's White Paper that, without inquiry, the Government have come round to the view that a reduction is desirable in the numbers of National Service men needed for our defence requirements. The proposals contained in the White Paper have already been considerably riddled this afternoon.
In my view, the Government proposals are obviously of a very makeshift character and are evidence of very sloppy thinking and indecision. The Government do not know where they want to go, according to the White Paper. Even hon. Members opposite say that this is only a temporary measure, a little patching up and holding things over until the Government can make up their minds what to do. They say, in effect, "As long as we can give the House of Commons something to discuss while we are making up our minds they will not worry us too much. That is the best way out of it."
The alternative to the proposals in the White Paper is an immediate reduction of the period of service as a first instalment towards eventual abolition, and an inquiry by competent non-Service persons into the whole question of recruitment for the Services and the use of the manpower so obtained. Post-war National Service, accepted by the majority of us as only a regrettable necessity, is in danger of becoming a permanent feature of our defence plans. This is a very serious matter which we must consider.
We never intended to have compulsory military service as part of the defence plans of this country or as part of our way of life. At the end of the First World War it was abolished. At the end of the Second World War it was continued—I agree because of certain necessities. When one talks about abolition, the majority of people with whom I come into contact, say, "Do not stress abolition at this stage. Talk about reduction in the period of service. It is not expedient to stress eventual abolition at the moment." That is a view I do not share, believing that the road to hell is paved with actions designed in deference to expediency.
I believe that we have to be very wary when everybody speaks with the same voice. Tonight, everybody here is saying that nobody wants National Service, that we all want it abolished, that this is the ultimate aim of both sides of the House. There has been a great upsurge of good will, a great emanation of brotherhood from the other side of the House. I would like to believe that hon. Gentlemen mean what they say, but I have yet to meet the leopard who changes his spots.
My opposition to conscription is no new-found principle. In 1910, I helped to organise a meeting in the Birmingham Town Hall against compulsory military service where, out of 2,000 assembled citizens, only 30 voted for it, and they were prominent Conservatives. In 1918, I organised a campaign in Birmingham for the repeal of the Military Service Acts and I was supported by three persons who either were then, or who became, Members of this House. They were Noel-Buxton, Lees-Smith and Dick Wallhead. We conducted a strenuous campaign throughout the City of Birmingham and we were heckled at our meetings by members of the Conservative Party. I wonder, therefore, how much reliance can be placed upon this penitential attitude of the majority of the Tory Party, when hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "We were wrong, we are sorry about it, we do not believe in National Service," when for years and years it has been part of their doctrine.
I carried my principles against conscription into the Army during the First World War and, by oral and written words, opposed the conscription proposals of the Government. Those were exciting, but exacting, days. Facing brigadiers and colonels in this House is nothing to facing, as I did, an enraged commanding officer who had me before him on the charge of being guilty of the horrible crime of being a private who was thinking for himself. I was requested by my commanding officer most solemnly to promise not to write any more letters to my political friends about conscription. Because I would not do so, he decided that I was mentally unbalanced and sent me to the medical division. The medical division refused to concur in his view, so I was transferred to another battalion —in order that the contamination which had already taken place in one battalion could be spread to another.
In view of that murky past it is not surprising that I am still opposed to conscription in principle. I assert, however, that one can be opposed to conscription and at the same time recognise the need for maintaining our national defences. I would underline that it is just because I am concerned about our national defences that I am opposed to compulsory military service. So long as the War Office bevy of "brass hats" can rely for their raw material for defence upon an unlimited supply of National Service men, they will be content to hibernate in Whitehall until something catastrophic overtakes them.
We must face the fact, disclosed by experience, that the National Service scheme does not, in the main, provide good soldiers. I am referring to the majority of young men called up. Just imagine their position. They have an unprofitable and uncomfortable time between leaving school and being called up. They are at a loose end. Employers do not want them. If they find employment it is more or less blind-alley employment. Their plan of life has been upset by the call-up for two years military service and they regard it at the best as something to be done as quickly as possible and at the worst as something to be resented, with its obligations either dodged or resisted. Those who resist perhaps go absent without leave and end in the guard room. Gradually their moral fibre is undermined through the unequal struggle between the individual and the military machine.
The net is wide. All sorts and conditions are ensnared by it. No attention is paid to inclination, aptitude or ability. What I am saying is perfectly true, and hon. Members know it. Questions are asked in this House about people who have dodged military service. If they are undesirable persons why is the net still being held out for them? What good will they be when we get them?
I will give two examples of the type of young men that we get in the military dragnet. There is the young man who, by reason of temperament and training, will never make a good soldier although he would probably be a good citizen if he were let alone. If he were allowed to live his own life, he would probably be brilliant. We do not ask whether he is fit to be in the Army. We give him a medical examination to find out that he is physically fit to be in the Army, but is being physically fit the only thing that matters? Should he not also be mentally and spiritually and psychologically fit to be in the Army?
We have to look at this matter from every point of view. If we take young men into the Army who have no aptitude for soldiering, and whose training and tradition is against the kind of discipline there is in the Army, we may be injuring and destroying brains which might be of great value to the nation in future years had those men been able to live the kind of life they were intended to live by their Creator.
That is one side of the picture. On the other side there is human material which could be used to produce good soldiers but which becomes "browned off" in various ways and so is repelled from service in the Regular Army. This means that we are trying to construct the machinery of national defence from unsuitable and inferior raw materials. This is wrong and dangerous. It will not only weaken our defences, it will also endanger our national security.
That is why the War Office is afraid of an independent inquiry. It knows that it is doing the job in a slipshod way, that it is not thinking through the problem. No business executive would conduct his firm on the lines applied by the War Office. Business firms have personnel managers who choose staff with some regard to suitability for the job. Does the Minister of Labour do that in the case of the National Service men who come for their call-up? Unemployed officers are specially vetted by the Ministry of Labour and National Service before they are sent out to apply for jobs—incidentally, this applies only to officers and not to private soldiers. This happens when we have finished with them, but what about when we take them into the Services? Should there not be some system of personnel managers to find out whether a man is likely to be of any use in the Army before taking him in?
Business firms have buyers to select raw materials to enable their craftsmen to produce machines which will stand the test of competition in world markets. Those engaged in aircraft or motor car production would not dream of using inferior raw materials and unskilled labourers to do a job which calls for quality and skill. Why should we be satisfied with makeshift materials and outmoded methods in the construction of the machinery of national defence? That is what we are getting today under our system of conscription.
Those who run the War Office—I give this to them, and I give it freely, because I do not give much to the War Office; it never gave me much—are Britishers, and it is generally accepted that when he has his hack to the wall and is faced with overwhelming odds the Britisher pulls something out of the bag and scores a resounding triumph. I urge the Government to take away the regular flow of conscripts and bring the War Office chaps right up against it, for then we shall see what they can pull out of the bag, what they are made of and what they are going to do about organising national defence upon a more efficient basis by means of a voluntarily recruited Army.
It must continually be stressed that the only real alternative to this half-baked White Paper is efficient tackling of the problem of voluntary recruiting. Better pay and bigger posters alone will not solve the problem. That is the easy way. The best advertisement would be soldiers who were not only satisfied with life in the Army but enthusiastic about it. If the men who go on leave or leave the Service after five or seven years are not only satisfied but enthusiastic about the Army, we shall then get recruits. Contact with men who have personal experience of the Army and are enthusiastic about it will bring more recruits than posters will. If National Service men had been assimilated into the Army to such an extent that they captured the spirit of service within its ranks they would today be taking Regular engagements in greater numbers. The fact that they are not doing so is a measure of the failure of the War Office.
What incentives in addition to pay are necessary? I would again underline that one is proper housing for the married soldier during and after his service and adequate accommodation for the single soldier. We have today had an instalment in the educational field, and I should like to know more about this. There are not many private soldiers whose children go to boarding schools. A grant of only £75 for a boarding school education will not attract the recruits we want into the ranks. I urge the Minister to extend the grant to all ranks and not confine it to officers, for the ordinary soldier must be able to give his child a decent education.
Another incentive to voluntary recruiting which we must demand is full employment on useful projects when serving, so that a soldier does not feel that he is wasting his time. There are many jobs to be done, including mechanical jobs. I am not talking about picking up bits of paper on the barrack square. I have done that; that is "jankers." I am referring to real productive jobs. I am certain that the Army could organise real productive jobs and so make the men feel that they are not wasting their time.
I give highest priority among the incentives to the man's retention of his status as a full human being during service. What does that mean? It means no possessivly paternal C.Os. It means no petifogging restrictions on normal human activities. It means ceasing to apply to grown men rules designed for adolescents. When the Army learns that lesson, it will have learnt a big lesson. The voluntary recruit for the Regular Army should be able to retain his full citizen rights, and consideration at least should be given to trade union membership and protection for mechanics while they are in the service. Ability, aptitude and efficiency ought to count for more than family background, and proficiency in technical education rather than the old school tie should be the passport to promotion.
These are revolutionary suggestions. They are designed to shock the Service Ministers and their advisers, who include the "brass hats." Shock treatment is necessary to shake them out of the complacency which sees in the White Paper a solution to our problems and a "fiddle" with recruiting figures as a substitute for actual bodies.
Let the Defence Services cease to lean on the broken reed of National Service. Let the Ministers responsible go forward boldly in step with modern conditions and developments to the task of constructing a machine which is capable of producing adequate security for the nation. Let them withdraw the White Paper and stop playing with our National Defence.
We have listened, as we always do, with a great deal of interest to the hon. Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) because he always speaks with considerable sincerity. Although we may not agree with some of the things he says, he nevertheless speaks from the depths of his heart. Although I found myself agreeing with him from time to time, there were occasions when I found it a little difficult to detect a direct link between the brain and the voice. No doubt that will catch up with me later on.
One or two of the things that he said about the War Office interested me a little. He reminded me of a story which I heard during the war. An American soldier walking down Whitehall stopped a Tommy to ask him on which side the War Office was, and the Tommy replied "Well, ours, I think." I rather fancy that is the reaction of the hon. Member.
I would not altogether go along with him in stigmatising the "brass hats" in the way he did. My experience of brass hats on the whole is that they have been first-class men with the interests of the Army and, indeed, the Services and the country very much at heart, and they have given their problems very grave and careful consideration. On the whole, they are extremely able and very well informed. I should not like it to be felt that we had the general view about "brass hats" which the hon. Member seems to have.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the Tory attitude to conscription and his realisation that during the debate there has been a great deal of unanimity about the various matters that we have been discussing. We have agreed that we want more pay, better educational facilities, better housing, some improvement in methods of discipline, and so on. The only real disagreement between us is not on whether National Service should be cut but the timing and method of cutting it. That is the main point of difference; on everything else there has been a tremendous, most unusual, degree of agreement.
The hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) gave the House the benefit of some of his experiences during the Recess. Unfortunately, I heard only the last part of his speech. I have had an opportunity to investigate the problem of National Service and also Army training in general, not only during the last Recess but in Recesses during the previous three or four years, as an officer in the Army Emergency Reserve responsible each year for training a certain number of National Service men. Perhaps I may be allowed to give the House the benefit of my own researches into the problem.
In the first place, I found that there was a very large majority opinion in favour of cutting and, indeed, of abolish- ing National Service, but that reaction came almost entirely from National Service men themselves and was hardly surprising. On the other hand, the reaction of those responsible, not only for the training, but for the efficiency and fighting efficiency of the Forces, was very much against a cut in time, and the reasons given have been advanced by various speakers during the debate.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) threw doubt upon the statement that the value of the National Service man lay very largely, if not entirely, in the last six months of his service and he gave various reasons why he doubted that. These are some of the problems which occur when the time is reduced. First, the turnover is increased, with a very disruptive effect on unit life and unit efficiency; secondly, it reduces the number of N.C.O.s and instructors and National Service officers available to the Army as a whole; thirdly, it does a lot to jeopardise the three-year engagements. Whereas a man might be persuaded to do three years if he already has to serve for two years, if he has to do only eighteen months it is very unlikely that he will sign for double that time.
The various methods of reducing National Service all have many disadvantages, and the Government have chosen the one with the least number of disadvantages, although I would be the first to agree with some of the social and political objections that have been mentioned on both sides of the House. The name of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery was mentioned with approval by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), and it is well worth reminding ourselves of what he said recently in a very excellent lecture. He said:
I do not know if the Services can do with less men, but the men they get need to be kept for two years.
I confess to some prejudice in favour of the Field Marshal's statements, because I served under him during the war and have a bias in his favour. He is an extremely able and outstanding man, and I support his view.
I want to go further than just looking at the question of whether we can cut National Service, or how or when. I want to see whether it is possible to abolish it. This is not a sudden conversion, but something which I and others have been looking at and discussing for a considerable time. Until recently National Service has been necessary, and it has been necessary to have it for the period of two years and necessary to have it in the form in which we had it. However, I wonder whether what is described by General Horrocks in his recent article in the "Sunday Times" as "pax atomica defence" has not changed the situation very considerably and whether we ought not to look at this problem again.
We first have to review the defence cost and to review it against the background of the recent Budget, with all the measures to stop inflation. Government expenditure, especially non-productive expenditure, is, of course, the greatest fundamental cause of inflation. At the moment defence expenditure for the current year will be well in excess of £1,500 million, about one-third of the total Government expenditure. In the next financial year we shall have to bear the bulk of the cost of maintaining our forces in Germany, and I do not think that I am being over-pessimistic when I say that had we not introduced the cut to which the White Paper refers, by 1958 we might have been facing a defence cost running to more like £2,000 million.
That is something which our economy could not bear with ease. It has been estimated that about 10 per cent. of our national production is absorbed by defence expenditure. What is more important than that is that our metal-using industries will produce for defence purposes during the current year between £500 million and £600 million worth of goods. In manpower in industry and the professions we are losing about 285,000 men who are absorbed into National Service, a number which the present proposals will reduce, we hope, by 100,000 over three years.
All these considerations, the economic considerations, this burden on our economy, are all important, because we have to remember that we can be defeated on the economic front while we are diverting resources to meet a military threat. If the present expenditure of men and materials is essential for our defence and is essential to enable us to play a really effective part in the defence of these islands and in our efforts to preserve the peace of the world, then I am sure that the nation will accept it, as we have done in the past, and look elsewhere for economies, or ways of adjusting ourselves to the tremendous and increasing burden that it means.
I want to pose the question whether we cannot look forward to a time in the comparatively near future when the advent of the pax atomica age makes it possible for us to abolish National Service altogether, and there is a great deal of unanimity of opinion on both sides of the House about the need for the abolition of National Service. What form will a future war take? There has been much argument and debate about that. All the time major Powers retain the hydrogen weapons and the power to deliver them, a major world war is an improbability, if not an impossibility. But we shall still be faced, as has been said on several occasions, by the localised, perhaps large-scale localised, wars which will be fought with limited forces and conventional weapons.
What sort of forces and what size of forces do we want to meet that situation? What size of forces do we need to ensure that we can make the most valuable use of the deterrent effect of nuclear fission weapons available to us? What forces do we want to enable us to be able rapidly to deploy in sufficient numbers to deal with localised outbreaks wherever they may be? What forces do we require to have enough either to deploy, or to be available for rapid deployment, to deal with any attempts by a country with large land forces to seize territory rather in the Hitler fashion?
If we have not forces available, we may well find ourselves faced with a fait accompli, when part of a territory can be seized and we shall find it impossible to move the invading forces out of it without entering on large-scale and possibly nuclear war. I suggest that if the Services are integrated in the way in which Field Marshal Montgomery indicated in his talk; if we had sufficient airlift to make our forces really mobile so that we could rapidly deploy up to at least a division to where it is wanted at any particular time; if we again turned our attention to the tail which we are told is always being pruned, but which my personal experience year by year makes me wonder whether it is being pruned enough—for example, in the large number of vehicles which still clutter up rear areas and the supply and recovery organisation of the Army, which is still too large and complicated—if we examine such problems as the vast-scale, large tanks which we have, with massive transporters which have to be used to carry them and which are of doubtful value, there are methods by which we can prune a certain number of people out of the Services. If, in addition, we relieve the Regular forces of the National Service training commitments, I estimate that we can probably reduce our Regular forces of all three Services to about 600,000, or even perhaps 550,000.
Our Regular forces today number about 518,000, so that, depending on what size we eventually decide these Regular forces should be, we should initially have to recruit another 30,000 to 80,000 men. That would give us a net saving in manpower of between 110,000 and 160,000 men, with the very important additional saving throughout the whole of industry geared to the supply and maintenance of military forces.
We always come up against this problem. It is said, "It is all very well to talk about increasing the Regular Army but how are we to do it?" We have tried; both Governments have tried to increase recruiting and to some extent have failed. Pay increases have been given and have had a very short-lived effect. They have had no real effect upon the problem as a whole.
As a matter of fact, we have never really given increases in pay. We have brought up the pay of the forces to something approaching the national industrial average, but it has soon been left behind. We have never, so far as I know, tried to make the pay of the forces higher than the normal average civilian pay. If we are to attract troops in sufficient numbers we have to recognise that, in the first place, we must pay the soldier, sailor or airman more than he would get in civilian life because his life is subject to interference and sudden movement and he has not the stability and the stable family background of the civilian. We must give him something to compensate him for the loss of those amenities. Pay in itself is not sufficient.
There is the question of education. I am one of those who have been pressing the Ministers concerned to do something about it, and I was very glad to hear the announcement of the grant. Why only £75? So far as I know, that is very much below what we give to the Foreign Service. Why are the Armed Forces to get less than the Foreign Service? I welcome that addition as a contribution, but I hope that it will be looked at again to see whether it can be increased.
Housing has been mentioned. It is a very important matter. We must have improved barracks, and provide more housing for married people in different parts of the country.
Another point which has been mentioned by one or two hon. Members, and which is most important, is the provision of suitable employment on retirement. What happens in the Army at the present time—to take the Service that I know best? A man might be called upon to retire at any time from the age of 45 to 55. Generally speaking, unless he is very lucky, he will probably retire when his age is nearer to 45 years than to 55. He comes out with a pension which would be generous if it were given to him at 65, but at an earlier age, when he is near his maximum earning capacity, it is not sufficient.
A retired Service man has the greatest difficulty in finding other employment at that age. It should be possible to make opportunities for employment in various Government Services, for example in the ordnance depots or the R.E.M.E. workshops. The right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) thought there should be the equivalent of the old King's Roll in industry to absorb a certain number of people as they came out of the forces. Such schemes would give a reasonable guarantee of suitable employment for those having to retire between the ages of 45 and 55, and it would be one of the greatest encouragements to recruiting for the forces.
If we are to do this, it is no use adopting half-measures. It has been suggested that there is to be an announcement about increased pay, but to increase pay by a few shillings is no use. There must be a really bold effort. It is no use going to the Treasury and asking for a really adequate sum only to say in the end, "We will take half as a compromise." I had experience during the war of negotiating with Treasury officials about Army war establishments, and I discovered the lines on which that Department works. I was not as fortunate as an hon. Member who spoke earlier today. When I wanted a sergeant I was asked to accept a lance-corporal. The schemes must be imaginative and bold. We must accept the idea that for the first two or three years the cost of our Army is likely to rise considerably in order that we might build up Regular forces which would enable us to dispense with National Service.
What will happen if we dispense with National Service? We shall have no trained men coming to the reserves, except Regulars at the end of their normal term of engagement. That brings me to a problem that arises out of present circumstances. What is to happen to the mobile defence battalions? There arc supposed to be forty-eight of them in process of formation, and National Service men coming out of the Army were to be fitted into them. How will they be affected now by the reduction in Reserve training? There are only twenty days of training, except for certain selected personnel, such as some of the Class H reservists. When are they to take their twenty days' training? Are we to recast our ideas about the construction and development of these mobile defence battalions?
What is to happen to them if we dispense with National Service altogether? We shall have to rethink the organisation of these Civil Defence units, which is what they are. We shall either have to depend upon volunteers or to accept National Service for part-time or very short periods of service in units of that kind for home service and Civil Defence only.
There is the other reserve force, the Army Emergency Reserve, about which I know a little. It can serve no useful purpose in the future. I cannot see why we retain its twenty-day reserve training. The problems of mobilising it are considerable, and we shall never be able to mobilise it in any large-scale nuclear-fission hostilities, and it will not be required for localised wars.
The Territorial Army is different. It is most essential to maintain the Territorial Army, for two reasons. The first is to build up divisions some of which may be required at any time, without general mobilisation, to reinforce Regular troops who might be engaged in very large-scale localised warfare. The second possibility is in the event of the improbable happening, the outbreak of nuclear-fission warfare. We should then want the Territorial Army units which can be mobilised very quickly from areas very close to the points of mobilisation for the duties of maintaining order, restoring services, etc., during the period of dislocation immediately following a hydrogen bomb attack.
Let me sum up. If the present rate of defence expenditure is necessary we have to accept it and the possibility that it will jeopardise our economic development. I am not convinced of its necessity. If we reorganise the defence forces in the light of the present situation and can stimulate recruiting, we can, within a very short time, find ourselves able to dispense with National Service altogether. We can only do it if we really "go to town" on the idea of attracting people into the Forces.
We have to make the three Services a corps d'élite to which people are proud to belong, so proud that it will be difficult to get into it. We have to be selective in getting recruits, making entry so hard that a man will always boast with pride that he is a member of one of the three Services. If we can get to that stage we shall not only find that the fighting forces are efficient but they will be efficient without being the appalling size of our present forces. There will be a twofold advantage, not only the saving of money but, what is more important, the saving of our real and only wealth, our manpower.
I wish briefly to raise two points. In February, I was privileged to be a member of a small party of Members from this House which visited our troops in B.A.O.R. It was pleasing to hear senior officers give very fulsome praise to our National Service lads. I was also agreeably surprised that our National Service lads had so few complaints about their Army service. They took it quite philosophically. They made it perfectly clear that they never wanted to be soldiers, but that since the obligation had been thrust upon them they would make the best of it and look forward to the day of their release. That, I thought, was quite reasonable.
At the same time, there was one universal complaint among those boys—that they were not being usefully or fully employed at any time of their service and would be glad to be commanded to do anything for the sake of doing something. Because of that—and probably because of that only—they were suffering from terrible boredom and frustration. When I raised this with more senior officers they made no attempt to rebut it. They said, "You have come at the wrong time—in the winter. It is not possible for us to carry out our normal field exercises now. If you would only come back in the spring or summer you would see an entirely different picture." That, I thought, was a case not of the "lost weekend," but of wasted winters. What impressed me, in talking both to men and to officers, was the very urgent need there was—in the interests of the men and of industry over here—to substitute an intensive training which would concentrate into a shorter period the training necessary for the national need.
Despite the maintenance of full employment, and so on, there have always been some very serious pockets of unemployment in the old distressed regions—the Development Areas. A very good deal has been done by the erection of new factories, but I found that to be not the principal problem. The principal problem was recruitment of trained staff in those areas which had been largely denuded of skilled labour in pre-war days. Some of those firms have done remarkably well, not only in the recruitment but in the training of staff. Having achieved a large measure of success there, they are being greatly handicapped by the incidence of National Service on their staffs.
Perhaps, I may give an instance. In the Merseyside Development Area there is a factory which has done extremely well in its foreign exports. It has successfully faced very keen American competition. In 1950, that firm had a staff of 8,000 and because of its success in the foreign markets it decided on quite a long-term plan of expansion. It decided that, instead of having a staff of about 8,000 it should, within five years, have about 14,000. It had the buildings; it got the plant. It started a new system of recruitment for apprentices. It stepped up the annual intake of apprentices to 150 and planned that that figure should be 750 in five years. Facilities were created for training the apprentices so that at the end of a five-year training period they would be first-class, key, skilled workers.
The first of those men are just coming out of the apprenticeship training school. But what is the result? The result is that, because of National Service, in the twelve months from August last year to September of this year this firm has lost 109 of those trained, skilled people. In another twelve months it will lose another 150—in two years 260 skilled, key people will be lost. That will prevent the firm employing a further 1,800 people, because in those works they depend upon one key worker supporting the labour of seven other people.
When this firm went to Merseyside—and particularly when it started getting orders from the American market—it was doing a great thing for the country. By looking forward to expansion, and by proposing to engage another 6,000 people it was making a great social contribution to that area. It seems to be one of the tragedies of National Service that industries are going to be denuded of skilled people in those areas which suffered so much in the years before the war. In Liverpool, 1,200 will not be employed because those 260 will have been taken away—and this at a time when on Merseyside there are 12,000 unemployed.
In a period of full employment, when the value of every man's labour becomes increasingly important, I believe that we must ask the Government to forget this White Paper, to think again and to do something to stop the shameful waste of the nation's most valuable asset.
This debate has been on an Amendment which has not always featured very largely in some of the arguments. The Amendment is to the effect that the White Paper should be rejected on the grounds that it makes no provision for an immediate —an immediate—cut in National Service. Of the arguments deployed from the other side there have been a number to which we have listened with sympathy, and they have been made on behalf of those who do not believe in National Service on principle. If I may say so, those speakers have been the most logical in their opposition to this case; if they do not believe in it on principle they have every right to move for its rejection at any time on any grounds.
But those who have not argued in that way seem to me not to have proved their case, and if I may take some of their arguments I hope that it will be agreed that I have been reasonably fair in assessing them. The one most usually employed is that, as our commitments have been reduced since the proposals were first tabulated, it is, therefore, only reasonable that the Government should reduce conscription. I do not think that it has been proved today that our commitments have, in fact, been reduced.
Our potential commitments are dictated by the foreign situation. If hon. Members can honestly look at the situation in the Middle East today and say that they believe, without any doubt at all, that our commitments there have been reduced—despite the actual physical commitments which may have been eliminated for the time being—they have greater faith in those matters than I have, and they have greater faith in them than the situation really justifies. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Korea?"] Exactly. Korea has been eliminated, but it is in the power of those who created Korea to create another Korea. The hon. Gentleman must remember the policy of Adolf Hitler, who created one potential Korea after another. I would have thought that my point had been proved because, had we not been able to prevent affairs in Korea from developing, the world might have been in a major conflagration today.
As I understood, the hon. Gentleman was arguing that our commitments had not been reduced recently. Surely they have been reduced since the cessation of hostilities in Korea.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has brought that point up, because that is the difference between us. Our commitments do not consist necessarily of definite geographical physical commitments on the ground. They consist also of potential commitments. It is essential that we should be able to deal with any other potential commitment that may arise so long as it appears to us that the situation which caused Korea still prevails.
The hon. Gentleman must be well aware of the complications which confront us today. If we regard defence as an instrument of foreign policy, as it is, we must take that matter into consideration. I am certain that the Government are justified in the policy that they are following at the moment, in not making an immediate reduction merely because political and public pressure may have been brought upon them.
Let me deal with the next argument, namely, that National Service can be cut because so many people are wasting their time in the Services. That point was made by several hon. Members on the opposite benches. I thought my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) was right and frank in this matter. These men are being trained for an eventuality which we all hope will not arise. They are being trained in the Services, and those who have experience of the Services know that, by the very nature of the operation, there are bound to be periods of boredom. But there are also periods of quite the reverse. That is inevitable owing to the way in which the operation works. I am sure that we would all like to change it, but we cannot.
The amount of time wasted is not nearly so considerable as public outcry would have us believe. I think hon. Members must admit that those who complain are often in the minority compared with those who play a very full and vigorous part in the operation of National Service. I have had my own experience of these matters, and I have not found, particularly in Germany, where the National Service men were very happy on the whole—
I know that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. George Craddock) went around looking for trouble because they wanted to find it. I went around trying to assess the situation in a just way. I found certain cases of dissatisfaction but, on the whole, I found that the position was very reasonable.
I do not think it is quite fair to make that sort of remark. My hon. Friend and I went to the trouble of spending six weeks studying the camps in this country and abroad, and it is not fair that we should be dismissed merely as if we were looking for trouble. When the hon. Gentleman sees the report which I hope we shall produce, he will see some of the good as well as the bad.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has said that, and I hope that we shall see some of the good; but one cannot escape the fact that during the hon. Gentleman's speech this evening we heard only of the bad and nothing of the good.
Let me deal with the next argument, that other countries do not have such a long period of National Service. That may well be the case, but I would not have said that is a very encouraging attitude to leadership in foreign affairs. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but if a strong lead is not given now, it may be too late to give a strong lead later. We believe in ensuring the peace of the world while it is within our power to do so, and not waiting until the situation gets out of hand. There may be people who would like to see our defence system break down. They may have friends here, but I am not one of them and I shall oppose them with all the strength that I have.
A very reasonable demand has been made that we should look at the system of training and see whether it can be simplified. I think that is right, and I am satisfied that those who are responsible for training have done so. But during the course of this debate the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who, I am glad to see, has now returned to the Chamber, admitted that when he was in office men were sent after a very short period of training to Korea and Malaya, to deal with situations in which they were confronted with actual service conditions. I would have said that it is a very poor argument to admit that in an emergency one has to undertake a certain policy and then to argue that that policy should, therefore, continue when that emergency has ended. The right hon. Gentleman has made a very serious admission of what he actually did in those circumstances when he was in power. I see no quick simplification of the training system at the present time.
The right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) argued that our contribution was greater because Germany and other European countries were not making a sufficiently great contribution. Many of us have seen the rearmament of Germany with the greatest misgivings and I think it would be a very unwise policy if we were to say that we would reduce our commitments provided the Germans increased theirs.
If we accept the Amendment, on the National Service system as it stands, without question the Regular element will be less effective. The reasons have been very well deployed during the debate. I am certain that if we are aiming, as we have all argued in the debate, to strengthen the Regular element, there could be no worse policy to adopt at present than that of the Amendment. We have to ensure that when National Service men do their duties they make the best use of their time, and it has been shown that under the present system, unless they have the last six months' service, their time will not be used to the greatest benefit of themselves or the nation. To move for an immediate reduction in the period of National Service, as has been moved by hon. Members opposite, is to waste the taxpayers' money and to waste the time of the National Service men very much more than it is wasted at present.
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) in urging the Government to look at the problem in a longer perspective, but that has nothing to do with the Amendment. I take the same view as do many hon. Members—and I think the Government take this view, too — that this White Paper is an interim measure, but that has nothing to do with the Opposition's Amendment. The ultimate change which may be possible has nothing to do with the White Paper.
The Government must look very carefully at a completely new plan. Indeed, I think they are doing so now and that the White Paper is an indication of it. But that has nothing to do with the immediate issue, which is a call upon the Government without further ado to adjust the period of service in a way which could not provide a more effective system of defence.
I believe that to be totally lacking in responsible judgment, I believe it to be designed for party political purposes and I believe that it would do no good to our defence system. I am sure that, having heard the arguments which have been developed, the House will reject the Amendment.
If there is one thing about the speech of the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) which is clear it is that it was a political speech. He defended the Government on three grounds, but he knows enough about the subject to realise that there is another charge, which he did not mention but which could be brought.
Let me deal, first, with the three points which he used to attack my hon. Friends. He said that it was no good raising the argument about other countries, but that is where we came in, for, three-and-a-half years ago, at Whitsun, in a House with not many hon. Members present, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) and myself developed this very argument in an Adjournment debate—not that it was possible to cut National Service immediately, but that we were the only country in the Commonwealth with two years' military service. In the first defence debate after the war the present Prime Minister and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer advanced the theory that there must be a Commonwealth conception of defence: if there must be a Commonwealth conception of defence, there must be a Commonwealth sharing of the burden; Great Britain would find it impossible to hold its position as the keystone of a world-wide Commonwealth if we asked our young men to bear the burden of two years' service indefinitely. We went on to argue that what was true of the Commonwealth was also true of N.A.T.O.; there had to be a sharing of the burdens. The fact that that problem has not been tackled does not only lie with the present Government, but it is fair to point out that hon. Members on the Government benches are saying something different now from what they said in opposition.
The second point made by the hon. Member was on the question of National Service wastage. I entirely agree that that is a problem which is far too serious for the approach to be based on the journeyings of a couple of my hon. Friends from camp to camp. I recall that a lady pre- pared a report for the late Mr. Ernest Bevin at the end of the war, when we wanted an inquiry into the working of the A.T.S. She said something which was quite profound, that in dealing with the Services it was quite clear that virtue had no publicity value. As soon as one can find something wrong with the Services it hits the headlines. Well, a "B.F." is born every minute and the Army has its share; and the Air Force has its share, also. This problem cannot he approached in that way.
I come to the question of commitments, which has acted as a political flypaper and, I regret to say, has caught a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The commitment aspect of National Service is only half the story. It is just as if the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Budget day dealt only with what was to be spent on the Departments, but did not say how he would raise the money. One cannot spend money until one has raised it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] One cannot do that and remain solvent. One cannot do that indefinitely, even the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. The point is that we cannot send out divisions which exist only on paper.
The hon. Member for Harrow, East has been rather artful on the question of commitments. Some of my hon. Friends have not been strictly accurate in assessment of commitments, but when will the day come when commitments are normal'? When in this century could a Foreign Secretary or a Minister on behalf of any Government say on the question of defence, with his hand on his heart, "Of course all the commitments have been liquidated"? There is always one going over the horizon, another ahead and one coming up. The problem cannot be assessed. It is far too short-term to try to assess the problem in terms of commitments. I can give hon. Members an example from my experience. Between the wars on every occasion when the Government got into trouble they called up Section A of the Army Reserve, called out the Navy, or the Marines. To put this question of National Service right we have to look at it from the long-term angle.
I can only apologise for again saying what I have said on a dozen occasions. It does not matter who sits opposite. Take my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), my right hon. Friend the Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and put them on the benches opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They were infinitely better Service Ministers than the Conservative Party has ever had. I am always prepared to debate that because, during the war, in an emergency, with 400 Conservatives to choose from, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) took the unprecedented step of choosing a civil servant as Secretary of State for War. Let hon. Members opposite put that in their pipes and smoke it.
The Conservative Party's record in the Service Departments is intolerably bad and I regret to say that in the present Administration it has not found an exception. Yes, there is one exception, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Ward), who I think has done a useful job at the Air Ministry. The Secretary of State for War has done for the British Army something which Napoleon could not do, something which the Kaiser could not do and something which Hitler could not do—he has turned it into a jelly, an amorphous mass. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh. They come here, not very interested in the question of defence, but take it for granted when, in the Defence White Paper, they see that vast sums of money have been spent. They see, for example, that we have considerable numbers of men serving in the Armed Forces, but they mistake the numbers on the ration strength for the real strength. In the parts of the world where these things can be assessed, that sort of mistake it not made. The Russians, I am sure, are under no illusions as to the effective strength of this country's forces.
We have heard much talk today about the Army, but let us for a moment look at the Air Force. The test of an air force is the number of swept-wing fighters that it possesses. What is the total number of swept-wing fighters that this country has that makes people talk about peace through strength? I will tell the House, and the Under-Secretary can deny it if it is wrong; but it is true—we have 600, 300 less than Sweden. What has the U.S.S.R. got? Five thousand. And America? Five thousand in the U.S. Air Force, plus 1,000 in the U.S. Navy.
Despite the fact that we have spent £6,000 million on defence, we are a second-rate Power and are still behaving as though we were a first-class Power. We are like the old genteel figure in the back street of a suburb who cannot even feed the canary but who keeps the curtains clean and up at all costs. That is what we are doing. It is largely pretence.
Today, I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air a Question which has a great bearing on this debate. I asked whether the £292 million voted for aircraft and stores would be spent in the present year. He replied, "No." Last year, many hon. Members opposite cheered about our vast V-bomber force. What does it consist of? It consists of 11 Victors, 4 Vulcans and 15 Valiants. We have even had to slow down the delivery of V-bombers because we do not have the technical staff to maintain them. That is the kind of bottleneck that arises when the Government fail to grapple with this problem. It is not an easy problem to solve. It was evident three and a half years ago and that is why I do not apologise for repeating that the problem is incapable of easy solution. It is a long-term problem and can be solved only on an all party basis.
What I am saying is particularly applicable to the Army. If I may tell the story again for the twentieth time, on 1st November, 1951, the Secretary of State for War, when he had not been Secretary of State for more than five minutes, introduced a new Regular engagement for the Army, three years with the Colours and four years with the Reserve. Of course, he got a tremendous rise in recruitment. Being the kind of mug that he is he thought that this was due to his policy, on the one hand, and to the policy that he and his party had advocated when in opposition. They have advocated, as we have heard today from both sides of the House, that increased pay would do the trick. The curious thing is that it never does the trick.
What increased rates of pay will do—and I shall tell this to the Government next year when they introduce it again—is to borrow from the future. When rates of pay are increased, young men who contemplate enlistment will surge in, but six months later the Government run into the trough; they borrow from the future. What the Secretary of State did not understand, and what the country did not understand either, was the important thing that my much-maligned right hon. Friend the Member for Easington had introduced the differential. It needed political guts to do that, particularly with the kind of party that we are. [Laughter.] Yes, that is why I am proud to be a member of it, because it has a strong non-militarist tradition.
My right hon. Friend introduced the differential of 4s. a day for the National Service man for eighteen months, and 7s. for the last six months. And so the young man, faced at the pay table with the choice of 4s. or 7s. a day, said "Give me the 7s." and took the three-year engagement.
Now the test was going to be, how many of these men would prolong their service? If hon. Members will look at this in the way in which a staff officer will look at it, they will find that the present Government have recruited, at much greater expense, fewer man years than we did. Man years is the test and not the number of men. The Secretary of State for War is on record as saying—I am sorry he is not here; he will love to read this in HANSARD—OR 9th March, 1953, in HANSARD:
We should be all right if 33 per cent. of the three-year men stay for six years, and if something like 50 per cent. of those who stayed on extended for nine years. That would give us an adequate, regular basis for the Army as it is organised at the present time."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 855.]
It has taken me a long time to get the figures from the Secretary of State for War. I eventually got them from him in the form of a letter. We have now dragged out of him what is the rate of prolongation of that first batch of three-year men who completed their three-year engagement from 1st November, 1954, to 31st March, 1955. It was less than six per cent.
I tabled a Question during the Recess, and the Minister of Defence was kind enough to write to me to say that the information for the next six months would be available in November. I put down that Question on 1st November to the Secretary of State for War. That was before I knew that there was to be a debate. I received a letter from the Secretary of State for War asking me to transfer my Question to 15th November. At once I knew that there was to be another debate, and, of course, the figures are no better. That is why we shall get the answer after this debate.
There is no argument about it. The Government have got themselves into a hopeless jam. They have got 6 per cent. prolongation where they estimated, or perhaps hoped, to get 33 per cent. prolongation. What are we going to do about it? They cannot do it themselves. That is why I have said, in speech after speech that we do not want an inquiry to get the facts. All the facts about National Service are to be found in HANSARD.
It took the Secretary of State for War, who, I am glad to see, has come back into the Chamber, ten years of hard study —and hard slog by us—to convince him of one simple fact. Of course he came along, as if he had come down like Moses from Mount Sinai, to tell us that for the period of three years, the number of men for enlistment remained constant at 180,000. I then put this to him:
I want to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon having learnt lesson No. I after 10 years, but why does not he see the logic of the matter? If it is true that a constant number of men join the Regular Army, and that whatever one does will not affect the total number of men who will do so, why does not he appreciate that the question of paramount importance is for how long they will join and whether they will stay in after they have joined?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1955; Vol. 538, c. 185.]
That seems to me to be simple. If one of my daughters did not understand that, I would send her to bed for being stupid. But the right hon. Gentleman still does not appreciate that simple fact, and the result is that we get this White Paper.
One of the odd things about the White Paper is that the Minister of Defence really believes in it. He is far too nice and far too honest a person not to—and that also goes for the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of Labour, but not further along the Front Bench opposite. They produced this White Paper, and they say, and really believe it:
It would infringe the principle of universal liability for national service.
Was there ever such tommy rot as that? Does any hon. Member believe in the universality of National Service. If I were
to ask any hon. Member opposite whether the length of Colour Service is the same for the three Services he would say, "Yes," but he would not be telling the truth.
I have elicited during the summer months that each of the Services has a different system of release. In the Navy, for example, a man who joins on 1st January will be out again two years later on 31st December, and his leave is counted as part of his two years' service. What happens in the Air Force? I have asked the Secretary of State for Air, and I learn that no fewer than 96 per cent. of Royal Air Force men do their two years plus their leave period.
Of course, those in charge of the jolly old Army do not care two hoots. They apply the whole of the National Service Acts, so far as the period of service is concerned. Universality has never been effective. It has never been applied. Miners get away with it; agricultural workers get away with it; merchant seamen get away with it. The principle of universality does not apply.
An interesting thing about the White Paper is that Ministers are naive enough to publish it, but there is another matter that needs to be looked at, and it has a great deal to do with this debate. Any hon. Gentleman who cares to look at "The Times" for the day when the Prime Minister made his announcement about National Service will find that there was a lead story about it. "The Times" is always respectable and generally accurate. That morning, against the opinion expressed by all the other informed newspapers—because "The Times" correspondents are on visiting and drinking terms with Ministers—that newspaper carried the story that National Service was to be cut by six months.
The event was quite different, and I believe that the story of the difference was this. I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he made plain in his Budget speech in 1954, in order to balance the national accounts, had to get a cut, so there was a fight inside the Cabinet. Up to the last moment the Chancellor of the Exchequer was probably leading, and he thought that there would be a cut of anything up to six months. It did not come off. Now we have this White Paper as a substitute.
It is important to understand that when the vote is taken tonight it will not settle anything, because in a year's time—I make this speech every time we discuss the Army Estimates—the Army will be weaker than it is today. The rate of prolongation will not be any bigger. The number of men who will have enlisted will not be greater than it is today. If the country cannot face up to the realities of National Service now, in November, 1955, we can be absolutely sure that when the time comes for the policy adumbrated in the White Paper to be judged the country's military position will be weaker than it is today.
The Minister of Labour and National Service, who is to follow me, and I have agreed to split the last hour of the debate between us, and I hope, with the assistance of the House, to give him even more than 50 per cent. of it, because, having listened to most of the debate, I think that almost every aspect of it has been covered and almost every argument has been exhausted. We are quite clear where we are. A less complicated subject the House has not discussed for some time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who has just sat down, and who has an unrivalled knowledge of the matter, has said, the facts are perfectly clear.
There has been a disposition on the part of some hon. Members to ask us to justify our Amendment, but I beg them to realise that that is not the position. The actual position is that the Government have to justify the White Paper and, so far, we have had no real justification for it. I would remind the House—I know that I am only refreshing its mind when I say it—that we could not be discussing a more serious matter, because conscription is the final and most absolute exercise of State power over the individual citizen. It reaches out to the homes of the land and seizes hold of young men and takes them into its service without any excuse whatsoever except the general policies agreed to by the House.
It is. therefore, the supreme exercise of the civil authority, and that is all the more good reason why the Minister who has to answer the debate is the Minister of Labour and National Service, who exercises this power on behalf of the State and takes the young men and hands them over to the military authorities. When he has done that he has finished with them. He has not very much to do with the matter afterwards. He is, as it were, merely a sort of conduit pipe, sending the young men, through his agencies, into the Services themselves.
It therefore seems to me to be perfectly proper that if the House of Commons is going to exercise this power, if it is going to take young men and hand them over to the military authorities, it should justify the action. It is not enough to ask us to try to prove that the State ought not to do it. The State has a continuing obligation to prove that it is necessary. As a matter of fact, we attempted to assert that principle in 1953.
The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) tried to put us into a dilemma. He said that we had asked for an inquiry, and obviously we should not have asked for an inquiry if we had known the facts. Therefore, we asked for an inquiry in order to find out the facts. The Government then refused that inquiry and therefore, apparently, we have no right now to demand a reduction in the period of National Service. That is a curious kind of reasoning.
It is only necessary, apparently, from that reasoning, for the Government to refuse an inquiry to shut us up permanently, and the hon. Member for Bridlington too, because he would not know either. Therefore, according to the reasoning of the hon. Member, who always speaks with very great persuasiveness, it is only necessary for a Government to refuse an inquiry into anything and, because we do not know the facts, we are mum from then on. The true position is, and the House of Commons must always hold to it, that before the civil authority exercises the State power to take young men and hand them over to the military authorities, the case must be made out.
It was in order that we should try to keep this under review, in order that we should revive the right of the House to review the situation from time to time, that the Opposition on 16th November, 1953, moved a Motion—
That this House, whilst accepting the necessity for National Service in present circumstances, nevertheless considers that the time has now arrived when the period of service should be determined by Parliament on Affirmative Resolution, not less frequently than once a
year."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 16th November, 1953; Vol. 520, c. 1403.]
That, of course, was defeated, but it was a most unfortunate thing that it was defeated—unfortunate for the Army and unfortunate for the country.
The evidence that it was unfortunate is before us today, because this White Paper would never have been produced had there not been an agitation for a review of National Service. That is why it was produced. There was a discussion in the newspapers. There was a resolution at the Trades Union Congress. There was a discussion at the Labour Party Conference. There have been large demonstrations in different parts of the country and the Government have been made aware of the fact of there being a rising tide of indignation about this matter, and that at any rate the time had come to Parliament to review the situation. No one denies that, I hope.
As a consequence of that, the Government have found it possible—or the Services have informed the Government that they find it possible—to do without another 100,000 men in the next three years. That is the first point established. In other words, if the Motion of the Opposition had been carried in 1953 this reduction might have taken place then: so we have already drawn a little blood —not much—and we hope to go on until hon. Gentlemen opposite are looking pallid and defeated.
It has been said in the course of the debate by some people that of course the experts know all about it; that because Field Marshal Montgomery has said that they must have the young men for two years then, of course, laymen like ourselves who are ignorant about these matters must accept what the experts say. I have never taken that view, and I am sure that hon. Members on all sides of the House will not take it, because if there is one thing that the experts are not expert about, it is war.
In fact there have been some remarkable changes in the last few years. Weapons are changing so rapidly, and the conditions under which a third world war might be fought are so unpredictable that no one can offer himself as an authority on the subject. When we instituted National Service in the first instance there were two main reasons. One was to have a large number of trained reserves and the other was to try to provide for manpower in substitution of the shortage in the Regular forces. But the trained reserve has now gone. Nobody defends that now. Nobody wants it. We are told now that in a nuclear war the war might be over before the trained reserves could be mobilised. So that argument has gone.
The argument was put forward at the time with almost Papal authority. It was said, "This is the last word, we must have these young men trained ready in order to mobilise them for a war." That argument has gone. It was only, I think, in March, 1953, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir. W. Churchill) gave us his advice—and no one would suggest that he would regard himself as being otherwise than a great authority on war matters. The right hon. Gentleman was so knowledgeable about the nature of the next war, and what was required for our defence, that he said:
However, it seems to me at the moment that one of the really vital processes of national survival is the development and expansion of the Home Guard. So far its growth has not been in any way adequate to our needs or our dangers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 576.]
So we had the Home Guard. It was estimated that we should require 170,000 men in the Home Guard. I am not suggesting for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman was necessarily wrong; all I am saying is that these were the predictions and the advice of people who regarded themselves as experts. We got, I think, about 26,000 instead of the 170,000, and 9,000 of them were officers. The Home Guard has gone—another discard, another piece of expertise gone with the wind.
It was only a little later that we were told that it was necessary for us to fling masses of warriors across the Channel in order to stem the Red flood from the East. We are now informed by all the experts that such masses would themselves be in great danger, and that instead of having a great wall of men we now require to have highly organised pockets —mobile pockets. How a pocket can be mobile I do not know. Then there is another phrase; we are told that we must have "hedgehogs" situated at different points on the Continent. It is no longer a question of masses of men, no longer the huge divisions which we were told by the experts only a few short years ago were absolutely essential. That is all gone, and we are now to have an Army organised on an entirely different basis.
I appreciate this. I do not blame the military authorities because they are attempting to adjust their ideas and plans to a very rapidly changing situation. I am not saying this in a spirit of censoriousness or facetiousness—[Laughter.] —funny though the facts may, in retrospect, appear.
What I am saying, therefore, is that we ought not at this stage merely to accept the position that because the Army thinks it ought to have these men for two years we should sit down and give them to it. The point that I am making is that the experts now have no authority. They must justify themselves to the lay mind in language and with arguments which the lay mind can understand, because their authority has now been undermined by the passage of events. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is to reply to the debate will give us rather more substantial arguments than we have had so far.
I should like to say this about the Minister of Defence. I was a little late arriving, but he had not been speaking very long when I entered the Chamber. I thought his speech was quite perfunctory. I did not think it was the kind of speech which he had really prepared. No, I think it had been prepared for him. I think he had prepared another but he was not allowed to deliver it. I thought he was going to tell us something about commitments, but he said he had just mentioned them at the beginning in a long string. He must remember that a catalogue is not a description and that we expected to hear from him something rather more, because if we are going to call up young men, presumably because the country is in danger or our interests have to be defended, then we must be told what the case is.
Where are the commitments? We have been told that our commitments today are greater than they were when the period of National Service was extended from eighteen months to two years. That is rather a grim statement to hear. We had been under the impression that there had been a relaxation of world tension. In fact, the Prime Minister has taken very considerable credit for it. But now we have been informed, only a few minutes ago, that the period was extended because there was an emergency and now it is to be continued because there might be an emergency. So whatever happens we just get the two-year period. At no time is it to be reduced.
I was a member of the Government when the period was extended to two years, and I take my share of responsibility for the act, but we understood that the two years was to be temporary, for the period of the crisis, and that when it was over we should revert to the reduced period. But now it is being continued. Now we arc told that our commitments are still very extensive and, of course, most of our commitments for which the National Service men are necessary, because of the smallness of the Regular Army, are in the Colonies. If any Government in pre-war days had dared to suggest that this country was to have conscription to fight colonial wars, it would not have lasted five minutes.
I agree that there are circumstances which are exceptional, but can anybody seriously suggest that a great deal of the responsibility for some of these commitments does not rest on Her Majesty's Government? Does anybody seriously suggest that Cyprus has been handled intelligently? Is it not a fact that we are having to send far more men than we expected to have to send to Cyprus to meet the opposition of an indignant local population? Does not everybody on the other side of the House secretly believe that the whole thing has been wickedly mishandled? They say it privately, but they will not say it publicly, but we know very well that we might have got the Cyprus base peacefully if the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been less traditional.
Instead of that we are now in Cyprus in the same unhealthy and unwholesome social and political climate as we had in the Canal Zone. In passing, I may say that the same thing is partly true about Malaya.
Certainly, but it is clear that a great deal of the trouble in Malaya is connected with the position of the
Peking Government. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), on 21st June, said:
It has been clear for some time now that the emergency can only be ended in one of two ways. The simplest way would be a broadcast over Peking radio. That would solve the problem overnight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1955; Vol. 325, c. 1188.]
When we were in Peking last year—this is a very serious matter; many of our lads have lost their lives in Malaya and we have troops there now—we told the leaders of the Peking Government at the time that in our judgment they must realise that when Chinamen went overseas, the Chinese flag ought not to follow them or there was bound to be trouble, and that the Chinese in Malaya should accept assimilation into the Malayan population. We said the same thing in Singapore. I honestly believe that our difficulties in Malaya would have been solved some years ago if the United States could have been brought to agree with us to take the Peking Government into the United Nations.
Here is policy making necessary the use of British Service men overseas. That is why on this side of the House we say that this argument cannot be entirely divorced from the behaviour of the Government. The same thing was true about the Canal Zone. The Prime Minister knows much better than I that had we cleared out of the Canal Zone some years earlier, if he had been able to resolve his differences with his hon. Friends earlier, recruitment into the Regular Army would have been much better. These are the policies that lie behind our discussion of National Service.
I know it can be argued, and it has been argued with considerable force, that the reason the Government find it necessary to retain two years of service is the run-down in the Regular content of the three Services, especially the Army. That is true, but it illustrates the failure of the Government. They have been in office now for four years, and should have been able to build up the Regular content of the Forces before now. They say, "If we reduce the two years to a shorter period the Army will be completely disorganised." Well, the late David Lloyd George used to tell me that whenever he had arguments with the Services, the stage was always reached when he used to shut his ears, shut his eyes, open his mouth, and say, "No, no, no, no." That is the position which my hon. Friends and I take up today.
We say that there is only one way in which the Services can be made to adjust their plans to reduced manpower and that is by refusing them so many bodies. It is the only way. We know of no other way. It has been suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) that we ought to have an investigation into the Services' use of manpower. Why not? Why should it not be a civil investigation? What is wrong with that? After all, we are the civil authority being asked to provide the men and the money. Why should we not satisfy ourselves that the men are being intelligently used? There is grave suspicion that they are not being intelligently used. There is a great deal of evidence that manpower is being wasted, so why should we not investigate it?
The Government say, "Let the Services investigate it themselves. They will tell us." I remember immediately after the war a committee of investigation about the psychiatrists who were in imminent danger of demobilisation. There was an investigation into whether they could not be usefully employed in civil life; the psychologists made an investigation into the value of the psychologists. To my astonishment they recommended that they were invaluable. Therefore, if the Army makes an investigation into itself the Army will recommend that there is nothing wrong with the Army.
There seems to us nothing infra dig. about it, nothing derogatory to the forces or denigrating to their status, if the House of Commons decides to have an investigation into how the Services are using the manpower with which the House of Commons provides them. There is no reason, so far as I can see, why an investigation could not be carried out by a Select Committee of the House. After all, it was a Select Committee of this House that, after a great deal of controversy, did a most remarkable piece of work on reforming the Army Code—
I remember this particularly well, because I suggested it to the House as a compromise, and the right hon. Gentleman opposed it, as he will find if he will look at HANSARD.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he and I had another little argument at that time on an entirely different issue. He will discover that we had an argument about the invasion of the Leader of the House into the Opposition's time. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, got things a little mixed up; but if he is correct, I will apologise. I can make the offer and not be very likely to have to redeem it.
The suggestion we also make from this side of the House is that one of the causes of the Regular Army not being built up is conscription. It is a serious argument. I have heard it put to me by men of great experience in the Services. I heard to my astonishment—I never thought that it was the case—that over a period of thirty or forty years the same number of men offered themselves for Regular service each year. It used to be an article of faith with us that the Army was very largely recruited as a consequence of unemployment. I hear now—and I accept it—that the fact is that there seems to have been a regular pool of individuals who wished to join the Regular Services, and who normally offered themselves at a rate of 170,000 to 180,000 a year. The numbers that were taken in depended, of course, on the physical fitness of those offering themselves. That number has fallen, and the curious thing is that the fall seems to have synchronised with the coming in of conscription.
If my right hon. Friend will allow me to say so, that is not quite correct. The remarkable thing is that the 180,000 has remained constant from the 'twenties to the present time.
—and it has been put to me that the status of the Regular Army has been reduced as a result of conscription. We suggest that it might easily happen that as conscription is reduced Regular recruitment might grow. The two might go hand in hand.
We appreciate the difficulties that the Government have, and that if there is an immediate reduction in the period of National Service there is bound to be some disorganisation, there is bound to be some difficulty—there will have to be some readjustment—but we honestly and seriously believe that we shall not get that reduction if the Army is left to its own devices, and unless the civil authority is resolute enough to say, "These figures must now be reduced, you must make your plans accordingly, do as you have done before and cut your coat according to the cloth, and we are proposing to reduce the size of the cloth."
In the course of this debate I have been treated with the courtesy which I have always received. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), in commenting on the drafting of the White Paper, made some reference to the nincompoop who might have dealt with the industrial part, but I did not take that as too personal a reference.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was good enough to leave me—I think alone among my colleagues—if not with my trousers at any rate with a kilt, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has referred to my task in this sphere as that of a conduit pipe through the course of which the men are found to go into the Services. During the debate a good many things have been said and argued which are rather wide of the stream which normally goes through the conduit pipe of No. 8 St. James's Square.
At the outset I would say with what pleasure, for my part, I heard the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington at once singled out—and, I think, rightly—the independence of the approach which the hon. Member made to this problem. I would say that the critical, but constructive, support of the type he gave is very welcome not only on this side but in the House altogether. We shall look forward with interest to his interventions in our future debates.
The first thing I want to say to the House about National Service is that nobody wants compulsory military service if it can be avoided. Certainly, I do not. But, as things are now, we cannot possibly do without it. Forces composed solely of Regulars, as has been said in many parts of the House, would be preferable. They would be preferable on many grounds—economy, efficiency, and so forth—but the Minister of Defence, when he opened this debate, quoted figures which showed that without any question a considerable National Service element is essential in addition to the Regular component if we are to meet our obligations.
The point that I draw from that is that when we face this question, which we ultimately do, of how reductions should be effected, we cannot avoid some interruption in the civilian lives of the men who have to accept National Service. In present circumstances, on any view, we cannot avoid a considerable interruption of their civilian lives.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence, in the course of his speech today, said that a cut of twelve months could not be contemplated because it would destroy altogether the military value of our forces as they are deployed at present. It is quite clear that a cut of six months would still leave a considerable interruption. That does not mean that it is not possible, in present circumstances, to effect any reduction in the forces. The Minister of Defence today pointed out the size and character of that reduction. It will mean that we shall have available to industry men who are not available now.
A number of questions have been asked in relation to our commitments. I was impressed by what fell from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), when he spoke of the uncertainties and emergencies which are inevitable. Our commitments over the world are wide enough. We all know our commitments to N.A.T.O.—four divisions. We know our commitments in the Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire. We have heard Malaya, the Middle East, Kenya, all mentioned as examples. I do not take the gloomy view that we ought to regard ourselves, or that it would be good for the world if we regarded ourselves, as having fallen to the level of a second-class Power. If we are going to maintain the level of a first-class Power and meet those commitments it is extremely hard to put into figures what is necessary for that purpose.
We have reduced our forces which are necessary for the commitments as they go along, and by the policy of the White Paper we are continuing the process of reducing them. If we look at the figures in March, 1953, there were 870,000 people in the forces. The figure is now down to about 800,000, and if the policy in the White Paper is adopted it will be down to 700,000 in March, 1958—a drop of 170,000 since March, 1953.
As I see it, this is the approach to the question. The National Service part of the forces that I have mentioned is a necessary ingredient to make up the total which the Regulars could not provide by themselves. One cannot realistically suppose that we have for our present commitments enough in the Regular Forces, and, therefore, one cannot realistically contemplate getting rid of National Service at this time. We have introduced, and the White Paper carries forward, a policy of reduction of the forces as the commitments have narrowed, and the question before the House is not whether there ought to be a reduction and whether we should reduce, but by what method in present circumstances the reduction ought to be effected.
No doubt, there are various methods by which it could be done. The first of them is the method which I gather is suggested in the Amendment—a cut in the period of service. I will deal with that in greater detail, if I may, a little later, but I want to observe now that the objection which has been urged against it is its effect upon Service efficiency—and those arguments have been deployed by the Minister of Defence. As I understood it, my right hon. and learned Friend was not suggesting to the House that the last six months of a National Service man's service was the only period during which he was of use. He was saying that it was the period in which his efficiency was most valuable to the Services. That is something which no doubt is agreed on all sides.
The second method has not been recommended from any quarter in the House today, and that is a system of a selective service either by extensive exemptions or by ballot. I will not trouble with that because it has not been recommended. The third alternative, which has been adopted by the Government and is in the White Paper, is a cut in the forces to be achieved largely by a reduction in the National Service element. How is it to be done? By the method of spacing out registrations and intakes and thereby, it is true, allowing the age of call-up gradually and not very substantially to rise.
As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and others, a process of that kind is not one which can be adopted for all time. It cannot be continued indefinitely. It is a method which is suggested on this occasion to meet the immediate circumstances. It is the way the Government recommend we should go at present. It does not in the least preclude consideration of a cut in the period of service if and when circumstances justify that.
The method which we have adopted is not something new. It is nothing for which I can claim the charm of novelty or the brilliance of invention, for it has been done before. It was done in 1948, in circumstances which were no doubt different.
It was done once, but the point is that this is not a principle which we have invented. It was not only thought of, but was acted upon in 1948. The object then was a reduction in the National Service component in the forces and the step which was taken had the same result—that it raised the age at which the interruption of National Service occurred.
I am not disputing the reason. I tried to be fair to the House and I was careful to say that the circumstances were different. I simply said that the object was the same and the result was the same. The object was to reduce the National Service intake and the result was to make a slight increase in the age.
I want now to deal with what I gather were the principal criticisms of the method which the Government have suggested. The first was that the method increases the disadvantages of the gap in a young man's life by increasing the gap itself. I think I am stating that as hon. Members would wish it to be stated and I want to come to an examination of it after this preliminary observation: without the policy in the White Paper there is now, inevitably, a gap between 15, the school-leaving age, and 18, when the boy can be called up. One cannot avoid the existence of that gap. We cannot call up boys of 15. In general, we cannot call them up before they are 18.
If the House got down to the problem which lies behind this I think they would see that it is a much more positive problem; it is not how to close the gap, because we cannot close it, but how to fill the gap. The problem is: what ought to be done to put to the best advantage a gap which is inevitable between school-leaving and National Service?
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that it is not desirable to keep that gap as small as possible, and that what he would endeavour to do is to make it as large as possible, because that is where we differ from him?
The right hon. Member may not know, but he does know me. I do not make a habit of avoiding difficulties.
The first thing is that the gap is there and cannot be avoided. The difficulty I am coming to—I promise not to leave it out—is whether a slight and gradual increase of the gap is a disadvantage, or may be an advantage, or does not make much difference either way. I will come to that, but, first, I wish to say, because I think the House should have it in mind, how important it is that, whatever we do about the length of the gap—whether it gets a few months longer or stays at three years—we should do our best, in every Department, to see that it is properly filled.
Many hon. Members have said critical things about the Services. No doubt it is the duty of the Services—here the con- duit pipe may be allowed to speak—to use the men, when they are in, in the most sensible and efficient manner and with maximum opportunities—to this I attach importance—to use them, wherever possible, in their own trades and in all cases in the best interests of their future civilian careers, so far as is compatible with their service.
I know that from time to time there must be criticism of the way in which that is done, or the way it is attempted to be done. We do well to keep the Services alive to that, but we must have some sense and measure of degree in all this. It is clear that some chores are inevitable and, if a unit has to go out on service, it has to go out as a self-sufficient unit and must have the people capable of doing the necessary chores. So there must be a measure, in our criticism, of the use of men for purposes of that kind.
So, also, there must be some limit to the demands we put on the Services to use civilian labour for the purposes for which from time to time members of the forces are used. That is because the element of expense enters into all this and there are limits to what one can expend on the civilianisation of labour. I am sure that many of us would wish to say of the Regular Forces—whatever criticism there may be from time to time of officers, senior officers and others—that we have an admiration on the whole for the way in which the Regular Army has managed to absorb and to train the National Service elements that have been added to it.
So much for the duty of the Services; there is also an opportunity for the Ministry of Labour. The Youth Employment Service does a great deal by advice to the boys before they leave school. We try also to help with problems which arise in preparing young men for service and also to help them to get resettled on their return from service. There is something more which can be done. It can be done by industry and by the trade union movement. It is to keep in touch with the men while they are away on service.
I have seen the effects of that in a number of firms. When they have done that the men come back in much greater proportions than they do otherwise and I know from reading the recent Report of King George's Jubilee Trust how much they emphasise the importance of getting men resettled after their service by keeping touch with them while they are on service. I should like to see a wide extension of that,
The tasks I have been talking about are tasks which have to be carried out whichever of the two methods, which I have been discussing, of effecting a reduction is adopted. I have said, and agree with the right hon. Member for Ipswich, that the present proposal would gradually and slightly increase the age of call-up, but there is nothing magic about the age of 18. Eighteen is an early age for call-up. In 1947, it had to be 18 because the 19-year-olds were already in the forces or in essential civilian employment. In 1939, when the Military Training Act was passed, and when there was complete freedom of choice, the age chosen for call-up was 20. So we may say that there is nothing inherently absurd in lifting the age a little from 18.
I will come back to the advantages and disadvantages of our method, but I want to deal now with the criticism that the policy we have adopted increases the uncertainties which a young man has to face in his call-up, by lengthening the interval between registration and actual enlistment.
I do not minimise the uncertainties which a man has to face in that respect, but this proposal does not increase the uncertainty. The important thing for a man is to forecast when he will actually go into the Forces. Under this plan, he will know.
I am considering the position of a man who is in a job already. He wants to know when he will reach the Forces. Under this plan, he will know that the likely date is between six and eight weeks after his medical examination. The fact that his medical examination may be about a month later than under the arrangements hitherto does not introduce a new uncertainty; he knows about it. He can find out his registration date also from the programme of registrations, which, up to the end of next year, are given in the White Paper. Therefore, he knows when he is likely to register, when his medical examination is likely to be and then, after that, his six to eight weeks will elapse and he will be enlisted.
The main trouble is that it increases the period of disturbance. The man has the certainty of the call-up all right. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has a large number of advisory committees advising him in industry, both on the trade union side and on the employers' side. Has he consulted them and, if so, what is their advice?
On all these stages concerning National Service, not over this policy in particular, we are in constant touch with the advisory bodies. I am not suggesting that anyone but we are responsible for this policy; it is the Government's policy.
I want now to deal with the question of uncertainty about the date of call-up, and to ask the House to understand that it cannot be wholly eliminated. After all, the number of National Service men required by the Services at any time is a balancing figure. One cannot forecast it with absolute precision. We have to know, first, the number recruited to the Regular service and then the wastage in the Regular service. Then, that gap has to be filled as it becomes necessary.
Another element which introduces uncertainty and cannot be avoided is that a man has a right, and often uses it, to express a preference for a particular Service or unit. Where possible, we and the Services take that into account. This may mean waiting for a vacancy in a man's trade or for the next intake into a particular regiment, which, in the case of most infantry units, involves a six weeks' interval.
Of course, we could eliminate that uncertainty without any great difficulty. It would be easy to say that we would post the first hundred men available to the next hundred vacancies, but to ignore individual preferences and aptitudes would not be in the best interests either of the men or of the forces, nor would it accord with the degree of consideration that ought to be given to the men who come into National Service.
Those who have read the White Paper will have seen that we have suggested methods of limiting that uncertainty. I shall not take the House through them, but they are there and their reality will have been obvious to the right hon. Gentleman. At the present stage, even without those additional safeguards, certain steps are taken. Registrations are announced in advance and at registration men are warned that after their medical examination from four to six weeks will elapse before they get an enlistment notice, and then not less than fourteen days will elapse before their enlistment.
The provisions which exist for early call-up from l7½ to 18 years, Where good cause can be shown, is a method by which we try to reduce the burdens which uncertainty may bring if a man has a good case. If he says that he cannot get employment because of his impending National Service, or for some other good reason, we call him up earlier if he wishes it. Similar facilities are given to men over 18 who are waiting for call-up.
I do not think that I need trouble the House by referring to the passage in the White Paper which explains the further steps that we are to take, but I think the House should appreciate that they are genuinely made in an effort to relieve those who become liable for National Service of the burden of some of the uncertainty which we would avoid altogether if we could do so without damage to the Services.
Now I want to turn to the question of whether there are advantages or disadvantages in the method proposed in the White Paper. First of all, by this means we get for industry an immediate accession of manpower. It will amount, by March, 1958, to 100,000 men. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ipswich drew attention to paragraph 9 of the White Paper, which states:
The decision to achieve these reductions—largely as a result of reducing the number of National Service men in the Forces—will provide substantial relief to industry.
It goes on to say that there will be an accession of manpower to industry of the order described. The right hon. Gentleman described this as poppycock, and said that it could only have been drafted by a nincompoop.
I would only like to say that in the bulletin published by the British Employers' Confederation, of 19th October, which does, after all, include a number of industrialists, this passage occurs.
When there is an acute labour shortage as now, the addition of 100,000 men to the labour
force even though not fully effective for three years will be very valuable to industry, as will the reduction in part-time training.
Now I go on—the passage I want is coming now:
There will also be advantages to industry in the later age of call-up. The apprentice who has served three years of his apprenticeship is more likely to apply for deferment to complete his training than one who has served only two years and, therefore, there should in time be some accretion to the number of skilled men that would not otherwise have occurred.
The change which is contemplated in the age of call-up is, after all, gradual. It will only be a few months in the near future, and it is unlikely, in the average case, to make a fundamental difference to the man. I submit to the House, that it has some advantage in the majority of cases, although not in every individual case. Not only does it give a man a chance to get settled in a job or occupation to which he can come back—it does that—but where there is a man who, because of imminence of National Service, did not take apprenticeship, he may now do so. There are men engaged in part-time courses, for example for the ordinary National certificate in Commerce or for the Royal Society of Arts Certificates in bookkeeping, shorthand and similar subjects who do not qualify for deferment, but I think that they will get advantage from the fact that they now have a bit longer before call-up. I do not leave out of account that it is not a bad thing that a man should be a little older and little more mature, physically and mentally when he is called up.
It is quite clear that we cannot get these men into industry by any other method equally quickly. If the period of service were cut, it would not be practicable to release immediately those now who have done eighteen months; we could only cut the period for those who come after, and I do not think that anything else was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. That would cause disproportionate dislocation of Service units and loss of efficiency which no one would tolerate. So, what we have to do is to do what was planned at an earlier stage—much earlier and not in this Government's time —taper off the period of service of the people already doing their National Service.
That would result in getting the number of people that we are doing, but it would not get the people as quickly as under our method so industry will have the advantage of these men in the way it wants. I think that we are entitled to claim, also, that the White Paper, in what it does in the way of limitation of part-time service, is of first-rate importance. I can put it in a sentence, that whereas industry was losing 500,000 man-weeks in 1954 through part-time service, in the year to come that loss will be reduced to 180,000 man-weeks, which is a substantial difference to the advantage of industry.
As to the Services themselves, I think enough has been said to demonstrate that the last six months of a man's service are the most valuable that he can offer. [Interruption.] The last six months of a trained man's service are the most valuable he can offer. The suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman puts to me jocularly is that we should chop off the first six months. If we could, we would.
I always pay attention to what is said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who pointed out the dangers which he thought inherent in National Service as a whole. I do think that any view of National Service which regards it as merely an interruption in the working life, the education, or the professional training of the young men of the country, is incomplete. There is another side to it which we should neither exaggerate nor leave out of account. Anyone who has read, as obviously, judging
from their speeches, some hon. Members have read, the King George's Jubilee Trust's Report on this matter will have seen that it concludes among other things that physical advantages have come to a great number of men through their service, and advantages in self-confidence and initiative. Nobody suggests that it is enough to leave it at that. The important thing is to see to it that in those respects every improvement that can be made is made.
I hope I have acknowledged that National Service must cause some disturbance to civilian careers, but I also hope hon. Members will read, if they have not read, the report which was prepared in my Ministry and which shows that there is no grave problem of resettlement or employment for the men coming back. I shall not trouble the House with it now.
I will only say that the suggestion I am making to the House, the decision I am asking it to take, is not one for all time. All I am hoping to satisfy it of is this for the present, that in an atmosphere in which uncertainties in forecast and calculation are inescapable this flexible method combines best the advantage of a rapid increase in manpower available to industry with the most efficient use of the men left in the Services.
|Division No. 35.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bishop, F. P.||Cooper-Key, E. M.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Black, C. W.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Body, R. F.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Boothby, Sir Robert||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bossorn, Sir A. C.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Boyle, Sir Edward||Crouch, R. F.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Braine, B. R.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Ashton, H.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Cunningham, Knox|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. w. H.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Balniel, Lord||Bryan, P.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Barber, Anthony||Burden, F. F. A.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MsA.|
|Barter, John||Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Campbell, Sir David||Drayson, G. B.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Carr, Robert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Channon, H.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Chichester-Clark, R.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A.(Warwick & L'm'tn)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Cole, Norman||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Kerr, H. W.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Errington, Sir Eris||Kershaw, J. A.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Kirk, P. M.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lagden, G. w.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Fell, A.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rawlinson, P. A. G.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Leather, E. H. C.||Redmayne, M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C,||Leavey, J, A.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Fort, R.||Leburn, W. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Foster, John||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Freeth, D. K.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Glover, D.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Godber, J. B.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Longden, Gilbert||Russell, R. S.|
|Gower, H. R.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Sharples, Maj. R. C.|
|Green, A.||McAdden, S. J.||Shepherd, William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||McKibbin, A. J.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R, G.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Gurden, Harold||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Speir, R. M.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macpherson, Nial (Dumfries)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Maddan, Martin||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Storey, S.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marples, A. E.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Heath, Edward||Marshall, Douglas||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Mathew, R.||Teeling, W.|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maude, Angus||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, R. L.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Hope, Lord John||Molson, A. H. E.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nabarre, G. D. N.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Neave, Airey||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nicholls, Harmar||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hudson, w. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Oakshott, H. D.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Osborne, C.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbrdge)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Page, R. G.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Partridge, E.||Wills, C. (Bridgwater)|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Kaberry, D.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Keegan, D.||Pott, H. P.||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Powell, J. Enoch||Mr. Studholme.|
|Ainsley, J, W.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Greenwood, Anthony||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)|
|Allaun, F. (Salford, E.)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mort, D. L.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Grey, C. F.||Moss, R.|
|Allen, Soholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Moyle, A.|
|Anderson, Frank||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Grimond, J.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Baird, J.||Hale, Leslie||O'Brien, T.|
|Balfour, A.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hartley, P.||Hamilton, W. W.||Oram, A. E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hannan, W.||Orbach, M.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Oswald, T.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Hastings, S.||Owen, W. J.|
|Benson, G.||Hayman, F. H.||Padley, W. E.|
|Beswick, F.||Healey, Denis||Paget, R. T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Blackburn, F.||Herbison, Miss M.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hobson, C. R.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Boardman, H.||Holman, P.||Parker, J.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Holmes, Horace||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Holt, A. F.||Paton, J.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Houghton, Douglas||Peart, T. F.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hoy, J. H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hubbard, T. F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Probert, A. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hunter, A. E.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reid, William|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Rhodes, H.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Carmichael, J.||Janner, B.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Ross, William|
|Clunie, J.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Royle, C.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Short, E. W.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, C.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||King, Dr. H. M.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lawson, G. M.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Daines, P.||Ledger, R. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Steele, T.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lewis, Arthur||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Deer, G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|do Freitas, Geoffrey||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||MacColl, J. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McGhee, H. G.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||McGovern, J.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Ede Rt. Won J. C.||McInnes, J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McLeavy, Frank||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Nest (Caerphilly)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mahon, S.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thornton, E.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Timmons, J.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd. E.)||Tomney, F.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Flenburgh, W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mason, Roy||Usborne, H. C.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mayhew, C. P.||Viant, S. P.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mellish, R. J.||Wade, D. W.|
|Freeman, Peter||Messer, Sir F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mitchison, G. R.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Gibson C. W.||Monslow, W.||Weltzman, D.|
|Goosh, E. G.||Moody, A. S.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Willey, Frederick||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|West, D. G.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||Vates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Wheeldon, W. E.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don valley)||Vounger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Williams, W. R. (Openehaw)||Zilliacus, K.|
|White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Wigg, George||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wilcook, Group Capt. C. A. B.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Winterbottom, Richard|
Question put and agreed to.